Smiling Eyes

A genuine smile is a beautiful thing. But, it is also a fleeting moment. A smile, if held too long, will transform into expressions of fear, anxiety, or even anger. These are never flattering expressions. I never ask someone to smile because it almost always creates a forced smile and the unflattering expressions associated with it. Even worse is telling someone to, “Say cheese!”

In the late 18th century Luigi Galvani discovered muscles and nerves could be triggered with electricity. In the mid-19th century Duchenne de Boulogne used electricity to create smiles in his patients. Because these forced smiles did not engage the muscles around the eyes, the patients did not look happy. But, when Duchenne told his patients a joke, he elicited a genuine smile. This genuine smile is now known as a Duchenne smile.

Like Duchenne, I have found real moments to elicit the best smiles. Here are some of my favorite moments.

Kali, Detroit, 2018

Kali, Detroit, 2018

Kali and I were in Eastern Market in Detroit for this shoot. It was a hot afternoon, and we were burning up. The staff of a restaurant were all outside taking a break and watching us shoot. Photoshoots tend to draw audiences, especially when the model is as beautiful as Kali. Catcalling is par for the course.

But, it is unexpected is when I get catcalled. The onlooking restaurant staff were all women, and in a strange turn of events I was the one being catcalled. This resulted in one of my favorite moments I have ever caught on film.

Rijul, Detroit, 2018

Rijul, Detroit, 2018

The beginning of a shoot is all about rapport building. I start with a simple concept so that any anxiety will fade away as I develop a working relationship with my model. Sometimes, a homeless man will walk by and try to convince me that he is prettier than my model. I politely told the man that he would have to pay me more than my client was and I would be happy to photograph him. Rijul responded with a beautiful smile that I almost missed.

Marissa, Detroit, 2016

Marissa, Detroit, 2016

This was my first shoot with Marissa, but I felt like I was with an old friend. Marissa was patient with me while I maneuvered the car to get the lighting right, which required moving around a lot. We finally decided on a location that had a large white bus that served as a bounce card.

I remember this wonderful smile was when we considered what the parishioners of the church would think if they knew what we were shooting in their parking lot.

Kristyn, Detroit, 2016

Kristyn, Detroit, 2016

I wish I could remember what I did or said that made Kristyn laugh. My guess is I tripped over something.