Anonymous
Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesVisual ArtsPhotography · 1 decade ago

Why don't people in old photographs smile?

In old photos, why do people always look so despondent or angry? Why do they never smile? Was there a reason for this?

10 Answers

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  • Bree
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I've talked to my father about this issue (he was born in 1930) and what he says is that many of those people did not have access to any formal dental care at all. So many of them either did not have teeth or their teeth were in such disrepair that they did not smile in pictures.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It was a convention from old portrait painting where a smile could not be held for the length of time it would take the artist to paint the portrait, so early photography copied this. It was only really with the introduction of the movies that the smile became glamorous and iconic. If you think about it though most serious photographic portraits and fashion photography still don't use the smile, it's still more to do with snaps of people at parties etc. having a good time.

  • 1 decade ago

    From PBS-I believe it was Ken Burns who commented in an interview on The Civil War that it was considered quite rude in that time period to smile for a photograph...AND it took such a long time to make an exposure-you had to hold that pose such very a long time--eyes would water from trying not to blink. getting your photo wasn't a happy fun thing..Matthew Brady probably was inclined to document th Civil War in his photo's because no one complained-and they all held still.

    Some of them-if you look close at what SEEMS to be a portrait-is actually an old photo-doctored by drawing with charcoal or conte crayon to make photo look like a sketch..Photography was new-and they wanted people to think they paid a painter do it. It was like Kmart-vs Tiffany's..only wearing a disguise...I'd get a few of those in come in the frame shop occasionally

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Mostly because the type of photography that was present back then would involve the person whose picture was being taken to sit still for several minutes, and sometimes they would have metal rods inserted up the backs of their clothing, and smiling would not have been easy, let alone the discomfort of sitting still for so long with a metal stick up your back!

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    In the 19th century, film and cameras were so poor that exposure times had to be very long - several seconds. People had to pose stiffly for a long time until the picture was fully exposed. George Eastman changed that in the early 20th century with sensitive films and the "brownie" camera that anyone could use. He coined the phrase "snapshots".

  • 1 decade ago

    in very old photos? like 100 yrs ago? its because the camera took 4ever to take the photo. I guess they couldn't hold their smiles for that long so they just sat very still.

  • 1 decade ago

    How old are we talking? A long time ago a person would have to stand perfectly still for a picture...Maybe they couldn't smile long enough.

  • 1 decade ago

    the first cameras ever took at least 3-4 hours to talk

  • 1 decade ago

    I think it's because they did not have indoor plumbing, premade clothes, fast food, automobiles, and TV.

  • 1 decade ago

    If you're talking about George Washington's picture on the dollar bill, he didn't smile because he had hippopotamus teeth placed in his mouth which you know are bigger than our teeth

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