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September 29, 2016

The Earliest Known Photographs of People Smiling

The following is a collection of some of the earliest known images of people smiling, starting with a pair of soldiers in the Mexican American War in 1847, up to a group of soldiers near the end of the Civil War.

If early images of people smiling do not come as a surprise to you, there are a few things to note. Among other things, a portrait of a person with a grin of any kind is quite a rare find in the early decades of photography.

There are many reasons why this was so, and one of the main hypotheses is that cameras had simply too long of an exposure time for the subject to hold anything but a mute expression. Early daguerreotype images took about 60-90 seconds to expose, though photographic technology was advancing and exposure times were quickly being reduced.

Other theories include widespread poor dental hygiene. But maybe most simply of all, smiling in a photograph was just not the cultural norm it is a today.

Daguerreotype of two American officers during the Mexican-American War, Veracruz, Mexico, 1847.

Daguerreotype portrait of man smiling. Unknown, ca. 1850s.

Daguerreotype of a group of intellectuals in Oslo, Norway, ca. 1850.

Ambrotype self-portrait of Isaac Wallace Baker playing cards, ca. 1853.

Ambrotype of two children with a toy train. Unknown, ca. 1850s.

Ambrotype portrait of an African American man striking a boxing pose. Unknown, 1860.

Ambrotype of a group of children, ca. 1860.

Union soldiers at Fort Monroe, Virginia, 1861.

Union soldiers at Yorktown, Virginia, by James F. Gibson, 1862.

Union soldiers moving artillery shells with wheelbarrows in Fort McAllister, Georgia, by Samuel A. Cooley, 1864.

(This original article was published on CameraPlex)


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