Before the advent of photography, statues, busts, and paintings were the means of sharing your image with others. During the Renaissance, portraits by Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Raphael, and Titian were popular amongst wealthy Europeans. The famous and powerful relied on portraits to capture their accomplishments and the likenesses of family and friends.
During the 1700s, less expensive options of self display came into being. These included miniature portraits which could be carried as pocket keepsakes as well as silhouette portraits.
Silhouettes were made by projecting light behind a sheet of white paper, carefully tracking the shadow cast by the sitter onto black paper, deftly cutting it out, and then pasting it on cardstock to make it a bit sturdier.
Then in the 1800s, photography was invented and nothing has
been the same since.
(Something we find strange today that was common in the 1800s
was to dress dead family members in their best clothes and pose them in front of the camera for a final photograph. These were called postmortems. Check out the movie, The Others, with Nicole Kidman for a freaky feel of this.)
Two early forms of photography included straight photography (recording events and exploring the essence of people via their
facial and body expressions) and pictorialism (manipulating photos to achieve a painterly, impressionistic effect). Alfred Stieglitz did both. His photographs of Georgia O’Keefe are particularly well-known.
Dorothea Lange did straight photography. She documented the suffering of Japanese-Americans at internment camps, farm workers and their struggles during the depression, and other people caught in injustice. The image included on this blog is a copy of one of her most famous photographs.
Other photographers include Diane Arbus (photographs include the “outcasts” of society), Roy DeCarava (photographed the lives of ordinary people as well as jazz legends in Harlem), Cindy Sherman (uses herself in her photographs to reveal stereotypes of femininity) and Sebastian Salgado (a Brazilian photojournalist who has dedicated himself to documenting the lives of people around the world).
What is the name of one of your favorite artists who does portraits?