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.