Why do people look unhappy in old photographs?

Peruse photos from the late 19th century and you’ll notice that every person portrayed – from Civil War generals to Wild West cowboys – looks extremely serious, or even downright mad. It’s as if early photographers never asked their subjects to say “cheese.” You might chalk up all the frowning faces to bad teeth or the inconveniences of early camera technology (long exposure times meant subjects had to sit still for up to a minute), but the truth is more complicated: Smiling was considered bad form. From the days of portrait painting, it was thought that only rude, poor, stupid, or silly people exposed their teeth in formal settings. The tradition continued with portrait photography, which is why everyone in old photos looks like they just got bad news. “A photograph is a most important document,” said American author Mark Twain, “and there is nothing [worse] to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.”


Picture Credit : Google