Originally posted on January 16, 2010
So Wikipedia says that saying "cheese" when having your picture taken, besides being used by photographers as a cheap trick to make one open their mouth in a smile formation, can actually "incite glee in some people." I don't think it's funny . . .at all. More than a few people I know have the same dilemma with this age old preface to shutter clicks. Instead of inciting glee, this saying denotes a feeling of panic and a stomach curdling fight or flight response, with the most likely one being flight. I have heard people say that having their picture taken is like: having an operation without anesthesia, an invasive Tom peeping into their soul, silent torture and constant judgment. For people who fear the lens, hearing "Say Cheese" is equivalent to a final warning. The dread sets in, the cold sweat begins and warning bells are ringing in their ears. Due to strong western influence, this saying has been coined in at least 13 different languages with slightly varied meanings. In Germany, for instance, silly words like spaghetti or "cheesecake" (Kasekuchen) are used to make small children experience the glee. In Spain they use "potato" (patata), in Thailand you may hear "Pepsi," in Denmark just say "sig appelsin" ("say orange") and in Sweden "sag omelett" ("say omelet"). To those who do not care to have their pictures taken, "Say Cheese" mean one thing . . .run!
Any way you look at it, some people love having their pictures taken and some don't. It is not up to the person behind the camera (who is NOT currently having their picture taken) to decide the feelings of those being colorfully stilled. It is their job to respect the wishes of their subjects. If you are out with a group of friends and one of them say no . . .respect it. They may not like themselves very much, they may have been teased as a child or some other deep seeded issue, or maybe they honestly feel freaked out that a part of them can be posted to god knows how many different web sites without their permission. Some people believe that the eyes are a window into the soul and that sharing a picture of themselves is really a very personal experience. I get it. It's similar to how I feel about singing on command. I have met so many new and wonderful people in my life, yet how much I value them as true friends more often depends on how much they push me to do things before I am ready than on how they treat me overall. When someone I have just met says "Oh you sing?! Great! Sing for me," its like someone just told me to take off all my clothes because I am about to be raped. I know that sounds harsh but it's really how it feels. Pictures are like that for some people and although the dream people have where they are standing naked in front of a group of people is very cliche and played out, it still holds true. There are still things called social conventions and people need to respect them. Long ago, people never smiled in pictures. They stood stoic and somber. Granted, maybe they had to pee . . .lord knows cameras back then were big and bulky and everything worth doing required waiting and patience. Taking their cue from Greek statues was for posterity's sake . . .an austere attitude the goal. According to a fictitious story, the reason people smile for pictures today is that a wealthy undergarment man from New York, Mr. Henry D. Brassier, farted during his very serious family portrait sitting and "Cut the Cheese" was simply shortened to "Say Cheese." Boy I wish history was more fiction than not . . .it would certainly be more humorous.