Selfie Backstory: Saying “Prunes” Instead of “Cheese” Before Snapping A Shot Was a Thing

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Selfie Backstory: Saying “Prunes” Instead of “Cheese” Before Snapping A Shot Was a Thing


Selfies, or basically ‘self-photographs,’ are now the main language many people share on social media. Wherever you go, chances are, you can see a selfie uploaded somewhere on either Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram -- especially Instagram. On any normal day, people see about 10 selfies on Instagram every 10 seconds. Which speaks a lot about the obsession of the current generation with the activity. 

Now, it’s incredibly shortsighted to claim that this sort of action is purely narcissistic, mainly because it takes away other important valuables for consideration. So, narcissistic or not, the truth is that taking selfies has become such a big part of the overall culture that everyone pretty much knows what it is. 

Back then, selfies are created through self-portraits by artists or the more common method of having a photographer to capture your image and preserve it. In truth, there’s actually a whole history behind the process of just taking one picture. For instance, people didn’t have access to dental care that was as advanced as the one we have now, so they would keep their mouths shut in a picture that took an entire 15 minutes to boot. Which would also explain the displeasure and tiredness they usually had on shots.


Photo by: Jacob Lund via Shutterstock


This is true; try finding an old formal shoot with, say, an upper class 1800s family. There is barely a smile in sight. Even if there was, Petapixel, a website for photography and camera news, the report states that it has to be a valid reason. 

As the 20th century swung around the corner and advancements in technology widened the scope of what pictures people could take and how they could take it, here came the wording. It’s always been “say cheese” hasn’t it? Only it hadn’t been before. 

The report went on to state that before “say cheese” was a thing in taking photos of people and getting them to smile, “say prunes” was the more common expression. This is because British photographers used the world to make their photography subjects “tighten” their lips. 


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In a corresponding article by Today I Found Out stated that the first known use of the “say cheese” encouragement for photographs actually came from Ambassador Joseph Davies. This expression, as reported in The Big Spring Herald newspaper in 1943, described Mr. Davies trick to smiling when his picture was being taken. 


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“It’s simple. Just say ‘Cheese,’ It’s an automatic smile. ‘I learned that from a politician,’ Mr. Davies chuckled. ‘An astute politician, a very great politician. But, of course, I cannot tell you who he was…’” The article reads. 




Vittorio Hernandez

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