I read recently that people used to not smile in photographs because it was a formal occasion….
…this was not the day of the point and shoot. Getting your portrait taken was expensive……
…..something you would likely only do once or twice in your entire life.
You also had to sit very still because the exposure took so long. Holding the same smile for a long period….
…was not so simple. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I still prefer portraits where a person is not smiling. My husband does too. In photographs, our babies only grin if they feel like it which seems so much more natural, like they are being themselves in front of the camera though both of them do so love to pose….
Since I became interested in photography way into the digital age, I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of a contact sheet. In analog days, a contact sheet was the entire film roll printed negative size on a sheet of photograph paper. The photographer could then examine the photographs with a magnifying glass or the naked eye to see which ones worked and which ones didn’t. Of course, you can still make contact sheets on Photoshop, but it isn’t necessary in the same way it was in the analog age. A contact sheet was a photographer’s sketchbook, a way to choose the images which you eventually decided to print.
The French-German television station Arte produced a documentary series proposed by William Klein called Kontaktabzüge (German for contact sheet.) In the series, 30 photographers from around the world walk you through their contact sheets talking about why they chose the final images they did as well as some intimate details about why they took the pictures in the first place. You can buy the box set here and it will definitely be worth the price because they are amazing, with dubbing available in both German and English. Please also ignore the idiot who gave it only three stars. His reasoning was that you can’t present an entire photographer’s work in only 12 minutes. Well, duh. That was never the point to begin with. Some of the segments are also available on YouTube, to found under the search Contact Sheets Arte. Here is the one by William Klein himself: