Monday, October 17, 2011

The Smiling Victorian

Most photos from the Victorian era are formal, with stoic expressions that look as if one is trying to contain all emotion, whether positive or negative, behind a tensed face.  The reasons given are various: photos were an expensive and formal event, photos were taken postmortem, people were unhappy, it took so long for the image to be captured that maintaining a smile was difficult and get the idea.  Basically, smiling was unacceptable and difficult*.  That's quite a blanket statement to lay across an entire era, and apparently it's not entirely true.

Enter The Smiling Victorian.  An old friend of mine share a link that led me to this group on Flickr that collects Edwardian and Victorian photographs with smiling subjects.  Even a slight smile will do, so long as one does not look entirely drab.

Ambrotype without the frame

Just to remind you

Tintype Trio

I especially love the number of images I found of sisters together, smiling of course, apparently happy to be with each other.  Most of the writing from the Victorian and Edwardian eras that I've encountered is something much less than happy, so I am happy to come across something that shows that at least a few people--women in particular, if you go through the set--were smiling, at least long enough for a photo, and that really is something.

*Of course, most people know and acknowledge that this isn't completely true, but it's an idea that pops up quite frequently.

Perhaps you'll be as intrigued by this one and that one as I am.  There must be a story involved, but do you think we'll ever be able to know it?  Maybe I'll invent it.  I've been looking for a good story to write.


Monica said...

what fun to see that side of then. it's almost an oxymoron, isn't it? lol

Brandi {not your average ordinary} said...

How interesting! I didn't know any long-exposure portraits with people smiling existed. I love the they broke from the trend.