What is a portrait?

Often the first impression of a portrait is a photograph of a person, however this is not necessarily the case. By addressing 4 different questions about portraiture, we were able to see the further depths into what a portrait can be.

   What do you think a portrait is?

An image that depicts a person, representation of someone, a face, essence of a person, an opportunity to get to know a person, often ‘set up’, doesn’t necessarily have to be a person – can be objects, animals ect.

Where are they found?

Portraits are everywhere – albums, adverts, publications, social media, books, galleries, magazines…

Who commissions them and why?

Companies, brands, families of the person photographed, the photographer (for self portraiture, portfolio, bands, ID and galleries), newspapers.

   What should a portrait include and exclude?

A portrait should include a personality, a person, emotion, expression, feelings, identity (representation), something showing human form. A portrait should exclude distraction from the subject and the photographers judgement.

  • The purpose of the picture influences its usage.
  • Historically, portraits were used as a form of identity or for remembrance. They were generally commissioned to flatter the person being photographed.
  • Portraits do not necessarily have to be formal.

There are a number of influential portrait photographers such as

  • Irving Penn – formal portraits mainly of famous people, he often photographed the people surrounding him.
  • August Sander – using large format cameras to document the german race by ‘types’.
  • Diane Arbus – known for capturing the people on the edge of society, using hard lighting and the opposite to flattery – showing them for who they truly are.
  • Richard Avedon – known for his fashion shots but also for ‘In the American West’, keeping backgrounds plain and calm focusing on the subject.

Following the lecture, we were able to experiment with our own ideas of portraiture.

These 3 images focus mainly on a person, whereas working with this further I would like to photograph the person’s belongings to give the image an ‘essence’ of the person and personality rather than actually photographing them.

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~ by victoriasimkissphotography on October 13, 2012.

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