76.1 F

Davis, California

Thursday, May 30, 2024


I see the same picture over and over again a horde of fake smiles all bunched together to make one shitty picture.

It appears as if there is an invisible lasso around their necks pulling them in to make a bouquet of smiling heads. Their bodies dangle aimlessly as they get ready to flash their pearly whites. In the process of making this formation, there’s always the collaborator encouraging others to smile harder and squeeze in tighter. After all, the more smiling heads, the better the picture. Motion and thought processes are suspended in time as the photographer pointlessly counts to three. Apparently, three seconds is the allotted time for everyone to stiffen their bodies before the camera accidentally captures any sign of life. In the aftermath of this ordeal, everyone retracts their faces back to the vapid look that corresponds to how they truly feel. For the finished product we get a mass produced image of the same smiling face we have seen hundreds of times before. Judging by some people’s Facebook photos, I would be hesitant to believe these were real people and not life-sized cutout boards.

Forget about context; the plethora of smiling faces floods the camera’s line of view. The only hint of context is the lighting and maybe the clothes that are worn. As a matter of fact, forget about capturing anything but the fleshy mass we occupy in space. The conventional purpose for taking a picture is to capture a moment visually; the more that is captured, the better the picture.

Most cameras can already capture all the required light frequencies emitted at the moment, so how can an image capture more than another? Pictures that tell a story, evoke an emotion, or spur a thought, are ones that entail more than light waves. Nothing robs a picture of its potential more than standing like a bunch of smiling buffoons. ?How often is our true emotion expressed by an ear-to-ear grin? Maybe two or three times a day on average. That figure is so low; it’s impossible that so many people truly want to smile when being photographed. Most people’s smiles only last the duration of the picture being taken; unless they derive some enigmatic joy from being photographed, chances are their smile is artificial.

I didn’t have to prove that to you; it’s common sense that people fake their smiles in front of the camera. If vacant stares and half-hearted grins are the norm, it’s impossible to differentiate between those who are sincere and those who are fake. The finished product is nothing more than a group of people in zombie costumes, masking any hint of humanity. “Oh, but smiling looks nice!” I forgot that pretending to be someone you’re not is the norm in a materialistic society that values superficial qualities. If you think it looks nicer to smile instead of being genuine, then you need to redefine your view of what it means to “look nice.” I know that I prefer not to carry myself like a Louis Vuitton bag.

We need pictures that capture more than meets the camera lens. Why does this guy look uninterested by that girl’s story? What emotion could the girl in the pink be experiencing? Why do I appear simultaneously happy and sad? These are the sorts of questions a quality photograph should make us ask. Rather than, “I wonder what she’ll be wearing in the next 500 pictures?!” If your photo gallery is all smiling heads, then you’ve kept only one emotional memory from your life, and it’s shallow. Let’s embrace our humanity and not fake a smile for the camera.

LIOR GOTESMAN has a few photos on his Facebook where he fakes a smile, but only because it’s ironic. If you also like to be ironic, don’t contact him at liorgott@gmail.com


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