Smile

April 4, 2011

Kate and i went to see the Street Photography Exhibition at the Museum of London last week (very good it is too) and this prompted us to wonder why people went from rather dour, unsmiling faces in everything up until the 1950’s to ubiquitous smiling ever since?

The following article Mental Floss article explains why:

These early photos took their cues from traditional European fine art portraiture, where smiles were only worn by peasants, children and drunks. The etiquette and beauty standards of the time also called for a small, tightly controlled mouth..Then, sometime in the twentieth-century, the smile became king, ruling over snapshots with an iron fist.

Apparently this was down to the supremacy of the market leader in the production of camera technology, Kodak:

Kodak’s position of leadership in the culture of photography and their saturation of the ads, magazines and their own publications with images of smiling faces allowed the company to define the standards and aesthetics of good snapshots, and smiling for the camera became the cultural norm.

It’s simultaneously both a scary thought and quite amazing that suggestion and advertising can effect almost universal changes in behaviour.

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