Why do Victorians look so miserable in photographs?

The common conception is that the Victorians were simply stuffy and repressed, but there might have been a reason that they didn't want to flash their pearly whites at the camera

A photograph believed to be of a Mrs Adams (1819-93) taken by an unknown photographer in c1860. The technology of the day (long exposure times in particular) required subjects to remain perfectly still – and a smile is difficult to maintain. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

The grim-faced photographic portraits from the early days of photography colour our vision of the Victorian era, but it’s not necessarily a reflection of the sitter’s mood. It’s true, many of those commissioning a formal studio portrait no doubt intended to be captured for posterity in a pose of thoughtful contemplation or dignified authority.

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Yet, the technology of the day (long exposure times in particular) required subjects to remain perfectly still – and a grin is difficult to maintain. It has also been suggested that, in an age of enthusiastic sugar consumption and rudimentary dental hygiene, most would have been reluctant to show their teeth.

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This article was taken from BBC History Revealed magazine