Jun
12

Say Cheese? (or) Say Prunes?

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The story is told that Snow White was given a  camera as a birthday present.  She then quickly went through three rolls of film, taking pictures of the seven little dwarfs; after which she took the film cartridges to the local drug store where they were mailed out for development.  Snow White then waited some days for the pictures to be returned, but nothing.  Finally, quite anxious about it, she went to the store clerk who consoled her with these words, “Don’t worry, some day your prints will come.”  Today, when being photographed, people are taught to smile with the instruction, “Say cheese” – because the “ch” sound causes one to show all the teeth and the long “ee” sound causes one to part the lips – thus forming something of a grin.  It was the former U. S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt who is credited with the idea.  He instructed his officials to remember this trick when having their picture taken by the press – so the American public, in the midst of a world war, would see only confidence, not worry, on the faces of their elected officials.  (And only the Lord knows how many times since this phrase has been used in picture-taking.) However, you wouldn’t have had to worry about cheesiness back in the 1800s Victorian era.  Then, the standard for beauty was a small, tightly controlled mouth (only drunks had a smile on their face).  So photographers gave the instruction, “Say prunes”.

The bottom line?  When graduation pictures are taken, remember – it’s “say cheese” not “say prunes”.

Story – In the photographic collection of the Bavarian National Museum in Germany, is a daguerreotype (photo plate) dated 1839.  It was taken in Paris by Louis Daguerre himself.  The scene is one of a beautiful boulevard stretching out into the distance.  On the sidewalk below, a man stands with one foot up on a bootblack’s platform.  This is the first human figure ever photographed.  But there is something else intriguing about this Paris cityscape.  Yes, looking at the photograph, one appreciates the exquisite detail in the picture taken from some distance -  the brickwork in the buildings, the tilework on the roofs, the individual cobblestones in the street, even pleats in curtains are easily counted.  Yet, with the exception of that one tiny, lonely figure, the entire boulevard, a half-mile or more plainly visible in the gleaming sunshine, is utterly devoid of life!  The shadows cast by the slender trees suggest that it is neither early morning nor late afternoon; so the boulevard should be bustling with strollers and shoppers and horse-drawn carriages, delivery wagons, perhaps even romping dogs and children.  But no one, save that one man, is anywhere in this downtown Paris scene (as though someone had just dropped the neutron bomb).  The truth is that the Paris boulevard photographed by Louis Daguerre was, during the moments the daguerreotype was taken, actually teaming with flesh-and-blood life.  But because that early daguerreotype process was so slow, only stationary objects could be captured on the plate, like the one man patiently waiting for his boots to be brushed.  History honours him as the first man ever photographed, only because he was standing still!

And may this be as God sees us – standing alone for right in an age of people running about to do wrong.