More Grimaces, Fewer Smiles

Notes on The Thin Line Between The Smile and Grimace in Photographic Depictions

More Grimaces, Fewer Smiles

Notes on The Thin Line Between The Smile and Grimace in Photographic Depictions

Asko Lehmuskallio: The Depicted Smiles we Walk By, Frankfurt am Main, 2003.

Grimaces are important facial expressions used in situated interactions for questioning social hierarchies and power relations. They counter the warmth of the smile and its invitation for shared foci of attention. In the photographs that surround us, the grimace is seldom to be found, whereas the smile is an almost ubiquitous expression in depictions in our “facial societies” (Macho, 2011). Interestingly, the need for depicted smiles provides us increasingly with images that depict not only smiles but, ever more, “as if” versions of smiles, facial expressions that we can identify with Goffman as “teeth grimaces”. While teeth grimaces reveal some aspects of how smiles are produced for depiction for our facial societies, the paper further suggests that we need more grimaces and fewer smiles in order to remember how social hierarchies and power relations, far from being abstract phenomena, must be constantly renegotiated in situated interactions.

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While the smile is an invitation for social interaction and is used widely in public depictions to invite people to interact with strangers, celebrities, or commodities, the grimace explicitly questions these invitations.
Reading time: 7 min.


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