December 8th, 2009

Headfakes - Black And White

This is just what people had to do before the discovery of the “headpile.”

(submitted by Garland)

114 Responses to “Headfakes”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Holy cow i have a picture with the same people but they’re jst posin stiffly….

  2. Poindexter says:

    Throughout history, the Uticans have always been a deeply unserious people.

  3. This picture is such a treasure. So innovative for it’s time, I’m sure!

  4. Ali says:

    Why do you think hats went out of style? Photographers got frustrated!!

  5. Sammy says:

    I hope somebody in this picture chimes in and explains the story behind it – I’m dying to know.

  6. JMB says:

    i think this family is haunting my house as of this moment

  7. Lucy says:

    The Von Trapp Family Singers – The Prequel
    “So long, farewell, alvederzein, good-bye…”

  8. SEM says:

    what a great photo! People in photos of this era usually look like the camera is about to steal a small piece of their soul. I bet this is a fun family.

  9. Powers says:

    People — by 1890 exposure times were measured in seconds, not hours.

  10. Snowrider says:

    I can only imagine the carnage that would result from a “headpile” what with the massive hat pins that women wore back then…..

  11. Lynda Kaye says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS PICTURE!!! (no sarcasm; I really do)

  12. Sarah says:

    What a treasure! I LOVE old photos. This one is especially wonderful.

  13. Katie says:

    Love this!

    As for the lack of smiling in old photos, not only was it due to long exposure times, but I read somewhere that it was also considered bad luck to smile in pictures. Not really sure why.

  14. isa says:

    they were just too cool for those old times!!!

  15. Dianne says:

    Aunt Marget would never get her picture taken, because of her spinal bifida til Uncle Carlton came up with this Idea!!! who would ever know she had a curved spine in this pic!!!

  16. MCR says:

    The dawn of chiropractic.

  17. KissKill says:

    Sooo funny! I always thought those old timey folks, didn’t have any facial expressions

  18. WrshpMzshn says:

    19th century photo studios had neck brace appliances to help during those long exposures. Obviously this shot was taken just after the great Utica earthquake of 1889. A bookcase fell on the stack of neck braces.

  19. Modine says:

    1890? Really? This is a treasure! I really like this picture. How cool to know your ancestors were zany madcaps!

    • SWMBO says:

      I totally agree – I am sure humor runs in the family. They would probably think it was funny their picture has been listed here. (Or would have sent it in themselves.)

  20. Tim says:


  21. Melisa says:

    I didn’t know PhotoShop existed in the 1890s?

  22. Mark says:

    The next picture features their Gatling gun.

  23. Jermainia says:

    You can tell that this pose was the brother’s idea. Look at his expression compared to those of the long-suffering sisters.

  24. Maggie says:

    Those corsets are tight.

  25. Ann says:

    It’s not that people didn’t know what to do in photographs back then, they just couldn’t move at all because the exposure time was so much longer. If they moved, it would ruin the picture. So it was much easier to have expressionless faces (try holding a smile for several minutes straight). The first thing I thought of when I saw this photo was that they must have had sore necks after this was done! It is a great picture, though!

  26. Zach says:

    This gives the term “Tilt-shift photography” a new meaning.

  27. V. says:

    Due to the long exposures of photography at the time, they may have had to hold that position for a long time. I bet they each had a crick in the neck by the time they were through…

  28. parkit says:

    I like this pic a lot! I think its cool, very creative for its time!

  29. Fanboy Wife says:

    This makes me This makes me wonder what the first photographers did before the arm shelf was invented!

    Also, considering that photography was only invented in the 19th century, this is a historic photo in awkwardness.

  30. Nikki says:

    This picture is awesome. Were jazz hands invented by 1890? If so, that would have made this picture even more fantastic!

  31. Lou says:

    Vintage awkwardness?? AWESOME! More, please. 😀

    P.S. I would SO have this framed on my wall…

  32. Sarah says:

    i like how they all have this look of “Are we supposed to be having fun or not?”

  33. Kurtacus says:

    I guess Quakers had totem-poles, too.

  34. debducttape says:

    This is a picture simulating the frustration experienced when a lady with the giant hat sits in front of you in the movie theater….

  35. Kelley O says:

    Didn’t they have to sit real still because early photography had long exposure times? And it would probably have been fairly difficult to hold a smile or any facial expression at all for a minute or two or however long it too. which would explain why you see all those stoic expressionless faces in old time pictures.

    • Anne says:

      This is very true. Also, having an image taken of you was serious business: previously you had to sit for a portrait, which was no small feat and not cheap. Even the early photos weren’t inexpensive. But as photography became more common and faster and cheaper it allowed for more relaxed poses – and awkwardness!

    • Herro says:

      “Expressionless”? You mean natural. Photos from the 19th (and turn of the 20th) century are honest. Who walks around with a smile on their face all day except the Joker? A person should be able to take a natural photo without others badgering him about smiling.

      • K says:

        @Herro I take it that people badger you about not smiling in photos. Lighten up. Some of actually do smile a goodly portion of the day. So there!

    • Betsy says:

      The only one smiling is the guy…because he’s not caged in a walebone corset!

    • PromisedPlanet says:

      By the late 1800s, exposure times were already reduced to under a second.

  36. gruven_reuven says:

    Fess up! This was taken at one of those “oldtime” booths at the Amusement park 🙂

  37. dgon says:

    Take it from me: a headpile is nearly impossible whilst wearing a corset.

  38. JFStan says:

    This is actually pretty creative for an example of early photography. People didn’t really know what to do in front of a camera back then, so they usually just sat there without even a smile. This bunch (or at least the guy in the back) may have pioneered the “do something silly” approach. 🙂

  39. G$ says:

    I love how the hats are so tall they have to tip their heads.

  40. Gneekman says:

    Wow, that’s some vintage awkwardness right there!

  41. Matty says:

    I think it would be hard to do the head pile with those hats on.

  42. bequi says:

    This picture is MARVELOUS!

  43. bmj2k says:

    This may be the act that killed Vaudville.

  44. Maria says:

    The two women in the middle look awfully awkward. Pun intended!

  45. Freak Speely says:

    That’s really cute. 😀

    I’m glad people back then could be creative and loosen up; in my family all the old pictures look creepy and could give less of a damn about their picture being taken!

    • PromisedPlanet says:

      Agreed. I love this photo because you can actually see the humanity in the subjects’ faces, versus the typical 19th century photo in which people are completely wooden and expressionless.

    • John III says:

      I know! This isn’t awkward. This is REALLY cool!

    • jesi says:

      agreed! they’re definately not german! all my german relatives photos from that era portray the most stern, joyless, hardassed people youve ever seen. apparently smiling wasnt invented until like 1950.

      • carriem says:

        Me too! I have a photo of my German relatives dated around 1940 and the youngest daughter has a half-smile on her face, everyone else is extremely grim. I’m sure the daughter was severely upbraided for her frivolity with the picture was developed.

  46. Angel Baby says:

    “Olan Mills-Purveyors of Awkwardness since 1890”

  47. chilaxx says:

    The dude on the top looks like Charlie Chaplin.

  48. MusicGal says:

    Good to know the greatness of awkward photos has been around for over 100 years.

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