Have you ever noticed that in really old photographs, the people never smiled? I have often wondered why that is. I mean, I know that there were certain remote tribes of people who were deathly afraid of having their picture taken, because they thought that it stole your spirit. I really don’t think anyone thought that in the 1800’s when these old pictures were taken, so why is it that no one smiles…and some people actually look mad. Even the kids didn’t smile…not one! How do you get that many people to scowl all at the same time?
I know that life was hard in the old west, but it couldn’t have been that hard, or everyone would have packed it in and moved back to the east. The work was harder, so maybe everyone was just tired, still if you make yourself, just about anyone can paste on a smile for a few minutes, especially when you did know in advance that you were going to have your picture taken. I don’t know, it has just always amazed me that people would pay good money to have their picture taken, and then scowl in it, so it looks more like it was a photo for a wanted poster.
But, after giving this question a lot of thought, I think I have finally come up with the answer. I believe that these families like most families these days spent several hours arguing with their darling little ones, and by the time it was their turn, everyone was in such a fowl mood that no one felt like smiling. Wow!! Now if that is the reason, then it sounds just like group pictures of today. I can’t tell you how many times we have tried to get all the kids or grandkids to smile at the same time, much less to stop fighting long enough to avoid putting everybody in a terrible mood. So, who’s to say that those families didn’t have the same problem. Ok, maybe not.
We may never know exactly why all the pictures taken of families in the 1800’s were taken with a straight face or even a scowl, but what we do know is that by the early 1900’s, people realized that the best pictures are taken when the subjects smile, and look like they enjoy life and want to remember this great day. When history looks back on your pictures, what will it see? Why not a smile?