How to shoot kings

“The king received the speaker of the Riksdag at the Royal palace.” Photo: Henrik Garlöv/The Royal Court of Sweden

I was made aware of this picture by @erikamarkusson, who wrote: “This ancient composition should be decommissioned. Two middle-aged men standing stiffly side by side, as if the headrest from the early years of photography were still propping up their necks.”

I’m not sure I would consider the king, aged 76, middle-aged. But apart from that: agreed! What a complete waste of a photo op.

It makes me think of a piece of advice I found in a guide with the self-contradictory headline “8 Tips and Tricks for Natural Female Poses” (if the poses are so natural, why the need for a guide?): “Never pose a woman square to the camera.”

Photo: David Hurley/Unsplash

Lining up men like perpendicular Lego bricks, on the other hand? No problem at all, apparently!

While I’m at it: is this really the best way to dress men?

Compare with how kings were allowed to dress in the 17th century:

Paintings of Louis XIV. 1: French School, 2: Hyacinthe Rigaud

Pantyhose, high heels, lace garters and yards of silk, velvet and fur. Also note the “naturally feminine” poses.

The fact that kings no longer want to be portrayed as insatiable gluttons of luxury might, however, be due to other factors than gender norms. Case in point: the French Revolution. According to an article by the Gentleman’s Gazette, “French menswear was negatively associated with the French Revolution, and people who wore it were sometimes beheaded by the guillotine.”*

Fascinating, right? In the bloody wake of the Revolution, men’s fashion withered into the dull, subdued and unadorned garb of today. Perhaps this is part of the reason why our own king would rather look like a humble businessman than a flamboyant French monarch.

The fact that only the female members of the royal family dress up in traditional Swedish folk costume to celebrate the National Day, however? 100% because of gender.

Queen Silva, the King, princess Madeleine and her husband Chris during the national day celebration. Both the King and Chis happened to forget their national costumes at home?? Photo: Maria Swärd / Alamy Stock Photo

The same logic applies when it’s considered newsworthy — shocking, even! — if two or more women arrive at a red carpet wearing the same outfit, while all men are expected to wear identical clothes in the same situation.

Source/collage: Waterford Whispers News

For men, the gender role — or at least the outfit — is much more restricting.


* “Natural Female Poses: Pro Tips & Ideas for Portraits of Women”,

Thanks to Rasmus Gunnarsson (my little brother 🧡) for his input, and to Eva Gunnarsson for #momsplaining what Louis XIV’s clothes were made of.