Powerful Photograph Series Doesn’t Force Young Girls To Smile for Their Portrait

Black and white portrait of a girl by Brooke Light

Based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, photographer Brooke Light is a seasoned product and portrait photographer. And while she works with all types of clients, it's her striking photos of young girls that really stand out. These black and white photographs aren't like many children's portraits you'll see.

Light's images are pared back, with the kids posed in an environment without props and with minimal distractions. And, refreshingly, you won't find any forced smiles plastered on these girls' faces. That's because Light encourages all the kids who participate in her Moody Mini Sessions to just relax and to be themselves without the pressure to smile. The results are beautifully disarming portraits that really cut to the heart of who these children are.

It's a concept that came to Light when she was photographing her niece Ruby. “I realized pretty quickly that because she was wearing what she wanted to and I wasn't making her smile, she was giving me some incredibly powerful looks,” Light tells My Modern Met. “From there, my creative bells were ringing, and I thought there might be something to this.”

The idea took off, with parents thrilled to let their children participate in a photoshoot where they were free to express themselves. Light, who photographs both girls and boys, feels particularly strongly about the choice to let young girls pose without smiling. “For me, it comes back to the performative aspect of smiling in situations that you don't want to. It's a subtle conditioning that says other people would be more comfortable if I was smiling/happy right now, so I'm going to choose their comfort over my own.”

While some might see her work as making a statement against smiling or happiness, that couldn't be further from the truth. “It's an acknowledgment that we, as women, are often expected to make a situation more comfortable/enjoyable for everyone else with our smile,” Light shares. “The earlier we can release young girls from this constant narrative, the better their chances of not constantly doubting their feelings and place in any given situation.”

Check out some of Light's striking portraits and see for yourself how powerful these non-smiling portraits can be.

Photographer Brooke Light encourages her young clients to be themselves and puts no pressure on them to smile.

Brooke Light Moody Mini Session

Brooke Light Portrait Photography

Brooke Light Portrait Photography

In doing so, she helps release these young ladies from the pressure to put on a happy face even when they'd prefer not to.

Brooke Light Portrait Photography

Brooke Light Portrait Photography

Portrait of a Young Girl by Brooke Light

Brooke Light: Website | Instagram | TikTok

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Brooke Light.

Related Articles:

Beautiful Portraits Celebrate First Nations Boys and Their Braids

Portraits of Identical Twins Reveal Their Similarities and Differences

Portraits of Girls at Age 15 and 20 Reveal How Much They Change in Just 5 Years

Beautiful Portraits Highlight What “Love” Means for People With Down Syndrome

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content