One Direction started off as an adorable little five piece boy band who hugged each other and smiled straight at the camera. They didn't harmonize, but they did have clear, bright eyes. On their first album cover—Up All Night—all five boys stare straight into the camera's lens. They confront it head on, together, as a unit:
But after a blissful rise to fame, something happened. Maybe something traumatic. There was no longer a sense of cohesion. One Direction stopped looking at the same camera simultaneously. Forever.
In 2010, the guys had just finished a stint on X Factor, which got them signed to Simon Cowell's label and set them on a publicity tour. Here's a picture of the group in 2010 on a red carpet.
Three members of the band have managed to look into the same camera in this picture, and amazingly, all of boys are at least facing the same direction. Seems like a simple thing. But One Direction is almost incapable of facing one direction.
Someone with power managed to get the entire band to look at the same camera for the September release of Up All Night. This effort, though, must have been mammoth, because everything falls apart so quickly it's unbelievable.
Here's a picture from December of 2011, taken on another red carpet
The first time I saw a photo of One Direction like this, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. It's hard to look at the right camera on the red carpet! There are a hundred cameras snapping from every direction. This is a totally believable excuse. Maybe they are all looking at a camera, but not the same camera. Maybe they just aren't *NSYNC (heh).
You would think that a multi-platinum, universally beloved boy band that has to perform on stage every single night in unison would be able to communicate amongst themselves enough to get them all looking into the same camera at the same time. But nope! Look at Niall GAZING OFF INTO THE DISTANCE. What do you see, Niall? What do you see?
2012 brought more trouble. Here's March:
We're beginning to see the emergence of Niall, who will surely take over as the king of One Direction, as he knows where the camera is.
Here's one from September:
Then everything really went to shit. For the November release of Take Me Home, the band locked Niall—literally the only member to consistently look into the right camera—in a phone booth:
New year, same problem! From January:
I have never been more proud of Harry Styles in my life.
I just. HOW?!
In November, the band put out another album, Midnight Memories:
Louis, because he chose to defy the group rule of looking away from the camera, had to stand a little bit off to the side. Sorry, Louis.
Nothing changed in 2014! Here's February:
Someone must have decided that this little charade had gone on long enough before the band released Four in November. On that album, there are two photos, both trying to convince you that the members of One Direction can stare in the same direction, at the same time, into the soul of a camera, without fear. Do you believe it? Do you believe them?
At this point I'm impressed that they could get this close! But what is Liam doing? Liam! The camera! It's over here!
Immediately after the album came out, the band was back to trash like this again:
Not EVEN CLOSE, boys. Not even close. (Side question: What is Niall doing with his hand?)
This has been a rough year so far for One Direction. They were on tour for the early part of the year and made no official appearances on red carpets while looking away from each other.
In March, Zayn Malik—a notorious failure at looking into the proper camera—left the group, leaving only 4 people to wonder where the camera might be.
The band still couldn't get it together. Here's a photo from May:
In July, an announcement was made that the band will be going on hiatus to pursue solo careers in the upcoming year. They will not be touring for their fifth studio album Made in the A.M, which is released nation-wide tomorrow.
What does it all mean? Is this album cover trying to tell us that only Harry and Louis will survive the dissolution of the boy band? Is One Direction terrified of synchronized camera-staring? What would happen if all members of One Direction looked at the same camera at the same exact time? Would hearts everywhere explode? Are all of these photos a testament to the flaws in communication and leadership that have possibly existed within One Direction since the very beginning?
Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe no one tells them where the camera is at all.
Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.