Why People Think You Should Smile For The Camera by Stephen Mc Elligott


‘‘Say cheese’’ says Auntie Ann when she points the camera in your direction. If you refuse to smile then oh boy you’re in trouble and frustration ensues from the whole family because you’re not doing what’s expected of everyone who stands in front of a camera.

Why then, are people like this when it comes to taking photos? Well I’m no great expert on the history but somewhere before the mid-20th century nobody ever smiled for the camera. Take a look at some photos of the Russian Tsar and how solemn he and his kids appearance is.Take a look at almost any photograph from that era and you will see even little children looking so solemn.

In fact lets go back even further before the invention of photography and the painting of Christian and Buddhist icons which always depict Jesus Christ or Buddha as not smiling. Isn’t it a bit ironic then that Jesus and Buddha who are associated with peace and happiness are almost never smiling in pictures? Most medieval portraiture has almost no smiling faces at all, isn’t that incredible?

Photography wasn’t affordable over 100 years ago and so only the really wealthy and those of royal blood could afford it. It was not until the arrival of the affordable domestic use of the camera many years later did people begin to smile because everyone wanted ‘‘happy’’ memories for their holidays and family gatherings so the expectation to express happiness suddenly became the new culture.

I’m writing this because when I posted my self portrait on Facebook today most people commented ‘‘Hey, why aren’t you smiling?’’ or ‘‘Why are you so serious?’’

Well . . . now you know a little bit more about why you expect me to smile.