In the early days of photography, very long exposures were required. I’ve read different reasons for the poker face on most of the subjects—everything ranging from wanting to appear upper class to the standard practice of wearing an uncomfortable brace to hold heads steady during long exposures to bad teeth to the Great Depression and wars—all giving the subjects nothing to smile about in the first place! And at that time photographs were only done by professionals. It wasn’t until cameras became available to hobbyists that photographs became more casual, more candid, and far less composed. All of the couples below exhibit that same solemn look, save for the happy hugging couple by the sea in the top left photo.
Something interesting I noticed, and I don’t know if this was common back in those days or something just this particular photographer did—several of the couples and single portraits I have in my collection show the subject(s) wearing an entire rose—stem, thorns, leaves and all—dangling at an angle with the wilted bloom facing downward. No neatly trimmed boutonnieres for this photographer!