• Justin Key

Behind the Title - Your Smiling Face

"Your Smiling Face" - by James Taylor



By far the easiest photographs to name are the bright and happy ones because there's no shortage of songs to choose from. Typically, the photos are so cheerful that the song becomes irrelevant because the emotions are so obvious. A clear blue sky shining down on a spring wheat field with poppies scattered throughout, you can practically feel the sun on your face and the breeze on your skin. The song is only there to help tell the story and drive that feeling home.


James Taylor's "Your Smiling Face" is one of those happy songs that pairs perfectly with a composition like this. The melody is light enough to get your body moving but not fast enough to make you dance. The tone creates the same simple splendor that I found in Tuscany where this photo was taken. The final factor that sold me on the song was how it helped tell the story. It didn't just play along with the memories, it embellished them in really fun ways.


"Your Smiling Face" has an interesting way of taking me down memory road. Rather than playing the memories in my head, the song inspired a cheesy movie montage sort of response. It's the type of slap-happy, cares to the wind tune that would be perfect alongside a montage of a drunk in love couple experiencing a spree of good fortune. With that in mind, queue the intro!


Imagine a pair of newlyweds on vacation in Italy. The windows are rolled down on their rental car as they wind through Tuscany under a clear blue sky. They look at each other with big stupid grins of love and hold hands with a giggle. The camera pulls back as the car zips around a curve and we catch a glimpse of the license plate with a cliche signature like "INLUV" or "JSTWED" as James Taylor beings to sing.


"Whenever I see your smiling face

I have to smile myself

Because I love you"

The music continues to play as the wife suddenly points to something ahead with an excited expression. The husband sees it and returns the excited smile before blindly turning off the road. Cut to them holding hands, moronically skipping through a field of poppies together. The skipping stops and they are now holding hands spinning furiously in a circle. The camera follows the wife as the world blurs behind her. She holds a nonchalant face as if not affected in any way by dizziness and mouths "I love you" across to her husband. The camera flips to him as he mouths back "I love you too".


"I thought I was in love a couple of times

Before with the girl next door

But that was long before I met you

Now I'm sure that I won't forget you

And I thank my lucky stars

That you are who you are

And not just another lovely lady

Set out to break my heart"


The montage skips their dizzy stumble back to the car that leveled a patch of poppies and cuts to their arrival at a medieval village. There they are greeted by a sign reading "Wine Festival $20". Cut to them rushing up to the entrance, smiling ear to ear. They look at each other and nod then extend a fistful of cash toward the camera. The next verse is just cut after cut of them having their glasses refilled and marveling at the ancient architecture as their amazement grows with every sip.


"Isn't it amazing a man like me

Can feel this way

Tell me how much longer

It could grow stronger every day"


The montage ends with a clip of them sitting at dinner in a cobblestone alley. The sun has set and a lone street light is pouring out romantic lighting under a star-filled sky. Plates of spaghetti grow cold in front of them as they stare hopelessly into each other's eyes. As they drool with the candlelight flickering in their pupils, the song fades out.

"No one can tell me that I'm doing wrong today

Whenever I see your smiling face my way"

In reality, Tuscany wasn't so ridiculous, as I mentioned earlier the song helped me embellish on my memories. There was a strong feeling of peace in Tuscany though. The region has a way of slowing life down to remind you of its simple pleasures. A field of wildflowers isn't just something worth pointing out, it's worth the time to stop and soak in its beauty. Dinners aren't meant to be scarfed down, they're a way to bring people together and appreciate the food provided.


A lot of important lessons were learned in Tuscany. By far the biggest one was the importance of happiness. The emotion is the most sought after for a reason and it shouldn't be that hard to find. In Tuscany, a bite of freshly baked bread would warm your soul. Seeing the sun on the hills of wheat was worth a smile. There are a million reasons to be happy at any given moment and we take the majority of them for granted. I hope this composition reminds you to stop and smell the poppies.

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© Justin Key Photography