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  #1  
Old 03-30-2010, 02:12 PM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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Japanese people making V sign in photos

Working in central London, I see a lot of tourists from around the world - I cross Tower Bridge every day on the way to work, and there are always lots of people taking the obligatory "I was there" photos.

One thing I've noticed is that when Japanese people pose for these pictures, they almost invariably make a V-sign with their fingers (palm facing the camera, rather than the "rude" way round). It seems like it's pretty much a reflex reaction, as soon as the camera comes out, just like a cheesy grin is the standard for many Westerners. It seems more natural when you see teenage girls doing it, but even staid-looking businessmen and grandparents adopt the same wacky hand gesture.

In video games, too, often the characters give the V-sign after completing a stage, or posing on the menu screen or whatever. Is there any particular reason for the V sign, or is it just "that's how we pose for photos"?

A few examples from Google Images (not from London, necessarily!)

1

2

3

4

Last edited by Colophon; 03-30-2010 at 02:16 PM.. Reason: added examples
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  #2  
Old 03-30-2010, 02:15 PM
hogarth hogarth is offline
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V_sign#...in_photographs
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Old 03-30-2010, 02:15 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Do you mean, 'Why is the "Peace" gesture so popular amongst Japanese?'?
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Old 03-30-2010, 02:17 PM
BigT BigT is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Do you mean, 'Why is the "Peace" gesture so popular amongst Japanese?'?
It's often used as a victory sign as well.
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  #5  
Old 03-30-2010, 02:27 PM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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Yeah I read the Wiki link but it doesn't really seem to explain what it has to do with tourist photos, other than presenting three guesses. I was wondering if it is the "victory" connotation, as demonstrated by Mario-san in the link above....

Really I was hoping to get a view from either a Japanese doper (if we have any?) or an expat living over there.

Last edited by Colophon; 03-30-2010 at 02:28 PM..
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  #6  
Old 03-30-2010, 02:33 PM
hogarth hogarth is offline
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Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
Yeah I read the Wiki link but it doesn't really seem to explain what it has to do with tourist photos, other than presenting three guesses. I was wondering if it is the "victory" connotation, as demonstrated by Mario-san in the link above....

Really I was hoping to get a view from either a Japanese doper (if we have any?) or an expat living over there.
My wife (Chinese) sometimes does this. I gather she does this because it's popular in Asia, and it's popular in Asia because people do this.
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Old 03-30-2010, 02:37 PM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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FWIW, An earlier discussion
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  #8  
Old 03-30-2010, 02:39 PM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is offline
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They do it because everyone else does it.

Why do we all smile when we get our picture taken?
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  #9  
Old 03-30-2010, 02:44 PM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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Originally Posted by Earl Snake-Hips Tucker View Post
Thanks for that. So it seems it might be an equivalent of saying "Cheese!" - either "piisu!" (= peace) or "nii!" (= two).
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  #10  
Old 03-30-2010, 05:26 PM
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I once had a friend stationed on the Okinawa Naval Base who posted several pictures of himself in uniform with locals. Unfailingly, every Japanese man or woman in the photograph with him made the two-finger V symbol. I asked him what was up with that, and he told me that while he had no idea the guys on base got a kick out of thinking that it was them saying "You bombed us this many times."

Ridiculously insensitive and my laughing at it is on the long, long list I'm sure I'll have read to me when I get to hell, but damn. I chuckled.
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  #11  
Old 03-30-2010, 06:03 PM
Onomatopoeia Onomatopoeia is offline
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Japanese children are taught to give the peace sign when taking photographs from when they're very young. It's a very reflexive gesture. Most don't even consciously think about it, their hand automatically flying up at the hint of a camera in the vicinity pointing in their direction. What's strange is Japanese people, from what I've seen, don't give the peace sign if they know the camera is shooting video. They will only do it for still photos.
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  #12  
Old 03-30-2010, 06:06 PM
Procrustus Procrustus is online now
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....they almost invariably make a V-sign with their fingers (palm facing the camera, rather than the "rude" way round).
is the other way considered rude in Great Britain?
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  #13  
Old 03-30-2010, 06:12 PM
jayjay jayjay is online now
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Originally Posted by Procrustus View Post
is the other way considered rude in Great Britain?
It's roughly the equivalent of our middle finger.
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  #14  
Old 03-30-2010, 07:04 PM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
It's roughly the equivalent of our middle finger.
Yes, although the middle finger has become more common in recent years. The two-fingered salute has more of a retro, Sex Pistols-era, "Up yours grandad" kind of vibe.
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  #15  
Old 03-30-2010, 07:30 PM
audiobottle audiobottle is offline
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I'm not Japanese, but I'm Korean and it's pretty much the norm among Koreans as well. As others have said, it's just a reflex sign. In the US amongst 2nd gen (or beyond), it is sometimes called "fobbin' it up" (fob = Fresh Off the Boat, or a slightly derogative, slightly affectionate term for people who just came to the US).
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  #16  
Old 03-30-2010, 07:43 PM
Hokkaido Brit Hokkaido Brit is offline
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It is purely reflexive and is bloody, bloody BLOOODY annoying! Whenever I try to take pictures of my kids in their English classes, the second they see the camera, they drop whatever they are doing and freeze with their hands up in the stupid pose. At which point I put the camera down and say "I'm not taking a picture with ANY HANDS UP" and they all stare at me, utterly confused as to what to do now. (With their hands still in the air!!) This is compounded when we do group shots and I'm there with the camera steadily repeating "Put your hands down" and the mothers behind me are all shrieking "PIIIIIIIISU"

GAH

Can you tell this is a sore subject?!
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  #17  
Old 03-30-2010, 07:50 PM
An Gadaí An Gadaí is offline
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Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
Yes, although the middle finger has become more common in recent years. The two-fingered salute has more of a retro, Sex Pistols-era, "Up yours grandad" kind of vibe.
Yeah when I was a kid it was rude, now if you did it to anyone younger than say late '20s here I doubt they'd have a notion it was meant to be offensive.
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Old 03-31-2010, 10:09 AM
GoodOmens GoodOmens is offline
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Originally Posted by Procrustus View Post
is the other way considered rude in Great Britain?
Yes, which I learned by accidentally offending my British boss one day. He asked me how many copies of a book we had in stock (this was a Waldenbooks). There were two copies, and he was too far away to hear me, so I indicated that fact digitally. He got pissed off for just a moment. Then explained an aspect of British culture that this American lad didn't know about.
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  #19  
Old 03-31-2010, 10:34 AM
even sven even sven is offline
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This is equally common in China, and it is purely reflexive. Even I have to resist throwing the "V" when I see a camera. There are also a few variations- the gun/camera frame, etc.

Asian photo culture is pretty interesting and notably different than our own.

Self-portraits are the way to go. People- especially young women- will gladly show you 100,000,000 photos of themselves. They don't do a lot of the "my friends acting wacky" or "documenting my family party" or "famous stuff I saw but am not posing in front of" that we'd expect. It's mostly about the self portrait. Even travel photos are "me in front of a museum, me in front of a statue, me in front of the ocean" etc.

Furthermore, these portraits are often of the "glamor" variety. A picture of you smiling happily in front of the Eiffel tower wouldn't be enough. You'd want to be posing in a white dress holding a rose and looking wistfully into the distance. Or smiling softly into the camera wearing a floppy hat and clutching a giant teddy bear. Or laying in the grass pretending to read a book while the wind artfully blows your hair. It's not just "I was there." It's "I was beautiful there."

Indeed, collecting these glamor photos seems to be a pretty common purpose for travel. Any Chinese tourist attraction is going to be full of young women in their best clothes posing as their sheepish looking boyfriends click thousands of pictures. Many of my students will consider "taking pictures of myself" to be a good weekend outing, and the richer ones will spend no small amount of money on professional photos on a regular basis. Beauty and image are, in my experience, much more important to young women in Asia.

I always thought this was a reason behind the peace sign- in this culture photos are supposed to be about people and they are supposed to be posed. So should you be caught without your rose or floppy hat, the peace sign is the least you can to do make it known that you care enough about your image. It wouldn't do for people just to be taking pictures of you doing whatever. You want to at least be projecting something, even if the "I'm young and wacky and getting my picture taken aren't we having fun!" peace sign is all you can manage.
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Old 03-31-2010, 11:19 AM
hogarth hogarth is offline
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
They don't do a lot of [..] "famous stuff I saw but am not posing in front of" that we'd expect. It's mostly about the self portrait. Even travel photos are "me in front of a museum, me in front of a statue, me in front of the ocean" etc.
That's my wife to a T! I thought it was a bit strange, but I've gotten used to it by now. Although it drives me nuts to try to fit something large (like a big statue, say) in the same picture as my wife without either making my wife look tiny or chopping off most of the statue.

Last edited by hogarth; 03-31-2010 at 11:21 AM..
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  #21  
Old 03-31-2010, 03:12 PM
The Scrivener The Scrivener is offline
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Re. the British "V" -- I thought it stood for "vag," as in "vagina," and the person doing it is basically calling [the photographer/paparazzi/people nearby/the whole world] a buncha cunts.

Does anybody know if this rude gesture existed during WWII, when Winston Churchill often made the palm-out "V for victory" sign?
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Old 04-01-2010, 12:29 AM
njtt njtt is offline
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Originally Posted by The Scrivener View Post
Does anybody know if this rude gesture existed during WWII, when Winston Churchill often made the palm-out "V for victory" sign?
Yes, see the Wikipedia link above. Initially the very aristocratic Churchill seems to have been unaware of the established meaning of this lower class gesture. Later he modified it so that the Victory sign is given palm outwards (the rude V sign is always palm in, and usually with an upward jerk).

Your folk etymology, though tempting, seems unlikely. If it were that, why not a C sign?
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  #23  
Old 04-01-2010, 12:40 AM
GameHat GameHat is offline
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Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
They do it because everyone else does it.

Why do we all smile when we get our picture taken?
[Schrute]
I never smile if I can help it.... Showing one's teeth is a submission signal in primates. When someone smiles at me, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for its life.
[/Schrute]


Last edited by GameHat; 04-01-2010 at 12:41 AM..
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  #24  
Old 04-01-2010, 12:51 AM
The Second Stone The Second Stone is offline
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It's just an imitation of the greatest man in the world. http://www.gemzies.com/img_photos/vi...c6_490x350.png
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  #25  
Old 06-27-2012, 06:42 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
Any Chinese tourist attraction is going to be full of young women in their best clothes posing as their sheepish looking boyfriends click thousands of pictures.
Wow! This explains something I saw a few weeks ago when we were hanging out at the pier. An Asian looking couple—the girl dressed in what almost looked like lingerie and repeatedly posing while her boyfriend took dozens of pictures. After every few pictures, she'd take the camera and look through them to see if they met her approval. My wife and I thought it was extremely strange and wondered if she was putting together some kind of glamour portfolio.
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Old 06-27-2012, 08:16 AM
pdunderhill pdunderhill is offline
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Originally Posted by njtt View Post
Yes, see the Wikipedia link above. Initially the very aristocratic Churchill seems to have been unaware of the established meaning of this lower class gesture. Later he modified it so that the Victory sign is given palm outwards (the rude V sign is always palm in, and usually with an upward jerk).

Your folk etymology, though tempting, seems unlikely. If it were that, why not a C sign?
Seconded back of hand facing others v. naughty, palm facing outwards at least in the UK is either a vaguely '60s 'hippyish' peace gesture, (pass the spliff man etc.) or an homage to Churchill in which case it means Victory.
Can be very touchy in some societies when visitors misunderstand hand gestures!
Peter
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Old 06-28-2012, 02:50 PM
Drunky Smurf Drunky Smurf is offline
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I once had a friend stationed on the Okinawa Naval Base who posted several pictures of himself in uniform with locals. Unfailingly, every Japanese man or woman in the photograph with him made the two-finger V symbol. I asked him what was up with that, and he told me that while he had no idea the guys on base got a kick out of thinking that it was them saying "You bombed us this many times."

Ridiculously insensitive and my laughing at it is on the long, long list I'm sure I'll have read to me when I get to hell, but damn. I chuckled.
Oh damn that's funny. I shall think this from now on. Also I think I'll grab an ice cream on my way to hell.
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Old 06-28-2012, 03:54 PM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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Originally Posted by hogarth View Post
That's my wife to a T! I thought it was a bit strange, but I've gotten used to it by now. Although it drives me nuts to try to fit something large (like a big statue, say) in the same picture as my wife without either making my wife look tiny or chopping off most of the statue.
I would prefer to not be photographed at all, so my father in law the professional photographer drives me insane We have monument with no people pictures
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Old 06-28-2012, 04:02 PM
Bisected8 Bisected8 is offline
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Originally Posted by The Scrivener View Post
Re. the British "V" -- I thought it stood for "vag," as in "vagina," and the person doing it is basically calling [the photographer/paparazzi/people nearby/the whole world] a buncha cunts.

Does anybody know if this rude gesture existed during WWII, when Winston Churchill often made the palm-out "V for victory" sign?
It did, in fact Churchill had to be corrected (apparently it was a practise more common among the working class than the potential conservative PM class).

The most popular (but still questionable) etymology is that British archers (Welsh if you ask a Welshman, English if you ask an Englishman) would often have their middle and index fingers cut off by their enemies (the English if you ask a Welshman, the French if you ask an Englishman), so the sign originated as a gesture that meant something along the lines of "haha, we still have our fingers, now kindly catch these yew sticks pointy end first".
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  #30  
Old 06-28-2012, 04:03 PM
Mdcastle Mdcastle is offline
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A famous example from a few years back- a youth pastor took a photo of one of the kids Alison Chang and put it under a Creative Commons license, Virgin Mobile used it on a bus stop ad in Australia. Her parents sued and the case was thrown out of court due to lack of jurisdiction
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sesh00/515961023/
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Old 06-28-2012, 08:45 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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There's a name for that Japanese V sign, but I can't remember or find it. I thought it was something like kawai, but googling it shows that just means "cute."
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Old 06-28-2012, 09:36 PM
cckerberos cckerberos is offline
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There's a name for that Japanese V sign, but I can't remember or find it. I thought it was something like kawai, but googling it shows that just means "cute."
AFAIK, it's just called the "peace sign" (ピースサイン).
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Old 06-28-2012, 09:37 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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AFAIK, it's just called the "peace sign" (ピースサイン).
How is that pronounced in Japanese? I've definitely heard a Japanese word for it, but maybe it's just been "peace sign" in Japanese, and I didn't catch on.
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Old 06-28-2012, 09:46 PM
yabob yabob is offline
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Some people claim it originated with American skater Janet Lynn in the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V_sign#...hs_of_Japanese

Quote:
The palm-outwards V sign is very commonly made by Japanese people, especially younger people, when posing for informal photographs. One account of this practice claims that during the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Hokkaidō, American figure skater Janet Lynn stumbled into Japanese pop culture when she fell during a free-skate period, but continued to smile even as she sat on the ice. Though she placed only third in the competition, her cheerful diligence and persistence resonated with many Japanese viewers, making her an overnight foreign celebrity in Japan. Lynn, a peace activist, was repeatedly seen flashing the V sign in the Japanese media thereafter. Though the V sign was known of in Japan before Lynn used it there (from the post-World War II Allied occupation of Japan), she is credited by some Japanese for having popularized its use in amateur photographs.
Somebody needs to dig up old snapshots of Japanese people, and see if flashing the peace sign suddenly became more prevalent after 1972.
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Old 06-28-2012, 09:47 PM
cckerberos cckerberos is offline
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How is that pronounced in Japanese? I've definitely heard a Japanese word for it, but maybe it's just been "peace sign" in Japanese, and I didn't catch on.
"piisu sain"
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Old 06-28-2012, 10:35 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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"piisu sain"
No, that's definitely not what I heard. If I can think of it, I'll pop in again.
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  #37  
Old 06-28-2012, 10:46 PM
JessMagic JessMagic is offline
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To add to comments on Asian photo culture:

- Pictures of food that the person is about to eat. There are one or two of my facebook friends for whom I'm pretty sure I could accurately note down their complete dietary intake for the week.
- The V sign, "super smiley happy fun pose" thing. This is huge in Asia, not just Japan. I think in a lot of cases, it's done ironically now.
- Cheesy "set-up" photos - eg. a group of friends standing on stairs so it looks like they're all different heights

Yeah, being a single white guy in Singapore, I'm friends with quite a few Asian girls on facebook....
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Old 06-28-2012, 11:18 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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Yes it is an Asian thing -- or at least East and Southeast Asia; dunno about Turkey -- but from what I can tell, it seems accepted that it's Japanese in origin.
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Old 06-29-2012, 07:27 AM
jayjay jayjay is online now
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To add to comments on Asian photo culture:

- Pictures of food that the person is about to eat.
Not really limited to Asians. I can name probably at least 5 of my American Facebook friends (including my partner) that post pictures of food on a regular basis.
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Old 06-29-2012, 09:06 AM
TokyoBayer TokyoBayer is offline
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Some people claim it originated with American skater Janet Lynn in the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V_sign#...hs_of_Japanese

Somebody needs to dig up old snapshots of Japanese people, and see if flashing the peace sign suddenly became more prevalent after 1972.
The Japanese version of wiki claims it became popular in the 80s and was due to a tv commercial with a Japanese TV personality.

I did see it in the early 80s in Japan, but I wasn't here in the 60s. However, a quick look at pictures from the 60s didn't uncover any peace signs.

Photos I've seen from the 50s and 60s tent to be fairly formal. It wouldn't surprise me to see that the sign became popular in the late 70s.
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Old 06-29-2012, 11:13 AM
RedSwinglineOne RedSwinglineOne is offline
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What I heard a few years ago but can't find a cite for now, (maybe somebody can confirm or deny) is that some cultures consider it rude to take 'candid' photos of people, so the 'v' became a way to signal that the subject is ready and willing to be photographed.
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  #42  
Old 06-29-2012, 01:47 PM
Švejk Švejk is offline
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post

Asian photo culture is pretty interesting and notably different than our own.

Self-portraits are the way to go. People- especially young women- will gladly show you 100,000,000 photos of themselves. They don't do a lot of the "my friends acting wacky" or "documenting my family party" or "famous stuff I saw but am not posing in front of" that we'd expect. It's mostly about the self portrait. Even travel photos are "me in front of a museum, me in front of a statue, me in front of the ocean" etc.
While it's obviously true that Asian photo culture is pretty (vastly) different, I've seen an inane tendency in Westerners as well to just pose in front of any physical object that you visit while on holiday. The worst example of this I saw was when I visited Auschwitz almost ten years ago, and I saw people having their picture taken with the Arbeit macht frei sign
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  #43  
Old 06-29-2012, 02:49 PM
InternetLegend InternetLegend is offline
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Originally Posted by Švejk View Post
While it's obviously true that Asian photo culture is pretty (vastly) different, I've seen an inane tendency in Westerners as well to just pose in front of any physical object that you visit while on holiday. The worst example of this I saw was when I visited Auschwitz almost ten years ago, and I saw people having their picture taken with the Arbeit macht frei sign
Tell me they weren't grinning and making the "V" sign.
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