What is a portrait? – 150 MC

So after the “what is a landscape”, we had a similar one on “what is a portrait?”

So, what is a portrait exactly?

  • Depicts a person(s)
  • Capture the essence of a person
  • Represent a person
  • Not just a person – e.g. animals
  • Can be staged or natural

Again, like in”what is a landscape” these are just the usual ideas of a portrait picture, but they can also be broken as well. For example, could a picture of a tree be classed as a portrait? In my opinion, I would consider it a portrait as it is depicting the tree as its true self. Myoung Ho Lee series called “Tree’s” is a good example of how the nature of portraits can be broken, as they don’t have to just be on a person at all.

Where might we find them?

  • Portfolios
  • Galleries
  • Publications such as newspapers and magazines
  • Books
  • Advertising and promotional materials
  • Family albums
  • IDs – other forms of identifications such as passports, student cards

Who commissions them?

  • Galleries – to promote artists
  • Publications and advertising – to sell their product
  • Publications and advertising – to sell interest
  • Companies and brands – as part of their marketing campaign

The portrait in photographic history

  • Form of identity/surveillance
  • Very limited and expensive
  • Very slow process

The last three points really were not as interesting for me as I thought they would be, as when it comes to my photo’s they don’t really bring anything to them at all, as it’s more of an explanation of a portrait.
However, after we finished talking about those points, a point was raised in which we were told that we have to be aware of how someone feels when we are taking a picture of a subject, due to the power relationship between the photographer, subject and viewer.
As a photographer holds a significant amount of power over the subject because a picture could change who they are exactly. So we need to be aware of how the subject is consciously or unconsciously acting in front of the camera.
And I felt like this was a very important point to note for my pictures; when I have included shots of the faces of a person, I have felt this uneasiness because the subject isn’t really being themselves at all, hence why I started to have the main focus being on the arms and hands as I felt they were more interesting.

So that’s why I feel that most of my pictures have ended up being more focused on landscapes as they fit more into my work as they express everything much more clearly rather than having a portrait which is a bit unclear.


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