Say "Ahh"

A collection of awkward reaction.


In humans, smiling is an expression generally associated with happiness and amusement. Most animals, however, show their teeth only when they are nervous or feel threatened. I believe the connection between the two is evident in day-to-day social situations. Whether it be a quick conversation with a stranger, or having your picture taken with friends, smiles are used more as a mask than as an expression of pleasure. Someone once coined the term "Pan American smile" to describe the expression used by airline stewardesses, who smile simply to be polite to customers and make them feel welcome. When you get your picture taken, you're often told to "say cheese," causing you to adopt a big grin, almost out of reflex. For this project, I'm attempting to remove the emotional mask and make the portraits more awkward and natural. I confront random passersby in public and ask to take their picture. Most prepare themselves by standing in front of the camera and smiling in a typical photo-portrait fashion. Instead of telling them to "say cheese," however, I confuse them with another familiar social reflex mechanism: "say ahh."