Filed Under (Beninese culture) by Rob on 22-06-2008

The unusual thing about this man is that he’s SMILING for the photo.


It’s usual for West Africans to smile for photos; even at a wedding, it would be quite rare to see the bride and groom smiling for the camera. This is not because they are unhappy, it’s just not part of the culture to smile in photos. Here are a few examples of people I have photographed ‘not smiling’:


Anyone know why this is the case? I tried googling the question ‘Why don’t Africans smile in photos’ and nothing concrete came up! Of course, there are cases of Africans smiling in photos (like the guy at the start), but this is more the exception than the rule. Having a yovo point a camera at you and enthusiastically say ‘smile!’ sometimes works, I’ve found!

Finally, the reason blokey at the top there is smiling is because – for the first time ever – he’s holding a copy of the Bible in his own language (Lokpa) and was unable to contain his joy at this. The dedication of the Lokpa Bible took place a couple of months ago (blog post on this to follow shortly).

Thanks for reading!

2 Comments posted on "Why Africans don’t say “Cheese!”"
anne on June 23rd, 2008 at 9:10 am #

a great reason to smile, i’d say.

nora on June 25th, 2008 at 4:09 pm #

great post Rob!