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As a common scene in popular photography, a photographer would always ask the sitter to “smile” and capture that transient moment of staged happiness. On the other hand, when we come across perplexities and difficulties, we are conditioned to tell ourselves: “Smile,” as if all the problems would be lifted after this simple facial expression. However, people tend to realize that a staged positivity isn’t always a solution, it can’t even numb ourselves anymore. Especially since each of us is in dire straits to varying degrees, thus smiling does not necessarily serve as an appeal to have some fun but carries an emotion with contradicting meanings, sometimes even uncanny and eerie. So the phenomena of smile now has a way more complicated significance.

In the meantime, the declining economy can’t mask this melancholia with its glossy polished commercial visuals anymore. Artists are standing in the challenging crossroad in balancing the time-consuming creativity and money-consuming life. In this state of financial constraints, when image-makers are confronting limited working conditions, how would they find creative ways as an escapism to cope with the difficulties, manifesting more primal and intriguing forces to create is something that we want to find out.

Under the theme of this issue, we present stories about “smiles” created by our collaborating artists and photographers from different parts of the world with various perspectives and unique life experiences.

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    268 pgs, 27.4 × 21 cm, Softcover, 2023, 978-1-80377-052-9