When Joseph-Nicephore Niepce took the first photograph in 1828, his photographic plate required an exposure of eight hours. That exposure time was drastically reduced across the course of the nineteenth century, so that by the 1890s the Collodion process had cut exposure times to two or three seconds.
Nevertheless, a three second exposure meant that subjects had to stand very still to avoid being blurred, and holding a smile for that period was tricky. As a result, we have a tendency to see our Victorian ancestors as even more formal and stern than they might have been.
These pictures are drawn from the Flickr group “The Smiling Victorian” and show a perhaps surprising side to the people who’s “now” was a hundred years before our own.