Friday, November 25, 2011


Kiev, Ukraine

© Dan Denardo Photography


If you’ve followed my work, perhaps you’ve noticed that smiling is rare in my photos. If someone is happy and smiling, that’s great...I'll gladly capture that. If they’re not smiling, I will rarely ask them to. Why would I want them to paint on an expression that is not heartfelt? I would much rather record their true mood at that moment.

Let's go back in history to the time of classic portrait painters like Rembrandt, Goya, Vermeer and DaVinci. Have you ever noticed any of their subjects smiling? They sought to capture the essence of their subject...their character. More often than not, the expression was neutral; neither inviting nor forbidding. It gives us room to interpret, to think...and to draw our own conclusions.

To me, smiling in most people shots is much like American pop culture – superficial. Laughter is real, as is anger and frustration. Why not keep it real? It’s not that I don't like smiles or smiling. I am, however, growing tired of the superficial smile that people (especially children) switch on nowadays…. usually after being asked to say “cheese” for the five-thousandth time. In fact, some “smiles” are not smiles at all. The lips part to reveal teeth in a way that doesn’t look the slightest bit natural or joyful.  It's a put-on. How do I know?

Their eyes aren’t smiling.

It's a smile that isn't true.

Jus' sayin'...



Ron said...

Point well made--and very true, too...and I agree!

But for the sake of argument, lets admit it Danny, you like shooting murderers ;) Just sayin...

Dan said...

Ronny, nobody knows me better than you when I have a camera in my hands. I admit it. I love photographing murders ; ). Especially when machetes are involved.

joel said...

That's a really good point. I'll be thinking about that for a while. How to portray things authentically is something that I'm always wrestling with.

I would also think that shooting this way would make capturing a moment of spontaneous laughter or smiling so much more worth it. Fewer opportunities, harder work, but more fulfilling.

Dan said...


I heard a great "people" photographer that I follow say it best, "If my subjects are smiling, I want them to look like they are smiling ABOUT something. And if they're laughing, I want them to look like they're laughing ABOUT something." I thought that was a nice way to make the point....