“ i think a photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.”- Mark Twain
My brother and I are infamous in our families for refusing to smile in photographs. As we were raised by the heroes of the past in books and biographies, none of them smiled in photos, so why would we? As Kanye West told an inquirer, “When you see paintings in an old castle, people are not smiling because it just wouldn’t look as cool.” i like it. yes i’m smiling as i quote Kanye.
Surprisingly as I began this trend back in my high school days I was met with nearly violent resistance! photographers threw stuffed teddies at me, made bizarre noises, family members punched me in the gut (well that might be exaggerated.) Seriously people really get upset. Which of course encourages me to smile less because I must be on to something.
It’s my picture after all! But i suppose they feel insulted. They probably think I don’t like to be photographed with them or I don’t appreciate the increasingly diluted art form, if you can call it that. Photography is to art what psychology is to science. That’s my analysis. You figure out how high I esteem photography …and psychology for that matter.
In the not too distant past, people did not smile for photographs or paintings. It wasn’t because they had to pose for a long time and therefore it was easier not to smile. It was likely because a photograph or painting was a single serious touchstone of a person’s life as Twain makes clear. Also as Twain indicates, smiling was likely considered something buffoons did. Only someone who has no clue a piano is falling from the sky to crush them would stand there smiling at the cars rolling by.
I am fond of Twain’s reasoning (and secretly I agree with Kanye). Look at our political candidates these days. Since the Nixon/Kennedy run off, suckers running for office are always smiling, even while saying, “I’m not a crook”. God forbid we vote for someone who is serious. Likely, the advertising theory behind a smiling politician is ‘hey, if that guy is happy, I’ll probably be happy if he’s in the whitehouse.’ Sadly this strategy likely works. Once again America will get the president they deserve.
Then there is the ministry. It seems like every picture of a pastor from mega churches to small rural mission outpost have pics of pastors with plastic smiles. If we don’t smile people wont come, right?. “If you look like you aren’t happy pastor it will send a message that we are not a happy people?,” one member told me. From the dictates of advertising, pastors believe that if people see that you are happy being a part of God’s church, others will too.
hmmm. If people want to be happy, let them go to that medical marijuana store on Mitchell st.. i don’t care if people are happy, though I know they will be eventually in Jesus. I want people to die and rise in Jesus Christ. Quite frankly, that’s serious business. Life and death you might say! I don’t see firefighters smiling while they pull little children from smoke filled houses!
And no, I don’t believe Jesus smiled too often. Though He was the calm amidst the storm and still is. And if he ever did laugh, it was probably when he was on that high hill praying and telling His Father about some ridiculous antic of Peter’s.
Perhaps we are very fortunate there are no photos of Christ’s passion for us. Instead we have been drawn by His act on the cross and empty tomb. And today He draws millions through the preaching of His Word whether the preacher is smiling or not.
Now don’t get me started on the bearded, shy, contemplative, ‘what, were you photographing me?’ pastor pose.