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Uncommon Knowledge: What came before saying “cheese”?

Diana Camera | UncommonGoodsSince the default expression in a photo now is a smile, we shout “cheese” because the word is supposed to make the corners of our mouth lift and our teeth show. However, in the early days of photography, facial expressions took their cues from traditional European fine art portraiture, where smiles were only sported by peasants, children and drunks—not exactly a good look. Paired with an etiquette and beauty standard that called for a small, tightly controlled mouth, looking good in photos was all about composure. It was for this reason that some early photographers asked that their subjects say “prunes” rather than the delicious dairy product we all know and love. We’re sure it did wonders for the plum-drying industry.

Diana Camera, $49

Written by Kate B

Kate is a copywriter. Strangers would describe her as that very tall girl with glasses, as would her friends. She is pretty good at needlepointing, surprisingly good at bocce ball, and very bad at choosing between sweet and savory at brunch. She is well-liked by most dogs.

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