The Progression of Portrait Photography by nalmansoori


									Running head: THE PROGRESSION OF PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY          1

                    The Progressions of Portrait Photography

                               Najla AlMansoori


                             College Composition I

                                  FCWR 101

                                 Linda Graham

                                March 3, 2012
THE PROGRESSION OF PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY                                                              2

                            The Progressions of Portrait Photography

       To help understanding what is a Portrait Photography we need to understand it from a

photographer perspective. According to Tim Meyer ‘portrait photography is not about you, your

cameras, or your lenses: it is about the subject. The most appealing aspect of portrait

photography is it’s the ability to convey to others the person captured by the portrait’ (Rand &

Meyer, 2011, p. 3). Furthermore, a portrait is defined, as a personal likeness, particularly a

painting, drawing, or photograph of the face (Rand & Meyer, 2011, p. 3). In this research I

describe a portrait photograph as an images of individuals or an object to preserve, describe or

record a visual memory. Most of famous photographers like Edward Weston, Alfred Stieglitz,

Richard Avedon and others had been able to challenge the status of movement and capture a

truthful astonishing photos that enriched mans journey till today. It has been stated that

‘Photograph tells so much about us as individuals; our history, our preferences. It tells about time

and space and how things have evolved or remained the same’ (Dynamic S, para. 2). In relation

to phycology, a photo can be defined as ‘an expression of joy, sadness, tranquility, apprehension,

concern or horror can inform the viewer about the state of mind or emotions of the person

photographed’ (Dynamic S, para. 1). The progression of photography in particularly Portrait

photography is a unique and incomparable experience in mans history. Starting with earliest

attempts in understanding the function of a human eye and understanding the light. The man

was able to step toward the great invention of the first camera, followed by the introducing

colored images, which by time evolved to digital photography and the ongoing technology

update. All of that positioned the concept of portrait photography to be part of people daily life

whether it is self-portrait, weddings, schools or commercials portraits.
THE PROGRESSION OF PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY                                                              3

       The history of portrait photography was much related to how painters and sculptors

symbolized people through the ages. It was pointed out that ‘Many portraits were produced in

Europe during the Medieval period, but their relevance to photographic portraiture is more

ideological than practical. For much of this period, the church dominated portraiture, and

likenesses associated the portrayed individuals with God or the church rather than conveying

their personas’ (Rand & Meyer, 2011, p. 7). In the 10th century, Ibn AlHaytham known as

Alhazen came to prove in his book of Optics (1021) that ‘the light travels in straight lines and

when the rays were reflected off a bright subject they passed through the small hole and did not

scatter but crossed and reformed as an upside-down image on a flat white surface parallel to the

hole’ (Foundation of Science, Technology and Civilization Ltd [FSTC LTD], 2007, p. 29). Eight

hundred years after ‘In 1800 Thomas Wedgwood makes “sun pictures” by placing opaque

objects on leather treated with silver nitrate; resulting images deteriorated rapidly, however, if

displayed under light stronger than from candles’ (Greenspun, 1999). Couple of decades later

‘the world’s first successful photograph was taken by Nicephore on a pewter plate in 1826

[Ill.11], using his professionally made camera supplied by the Parisian optician Charles

Chevalier’ (Gernsheim, 1986, p. 9). Since then there has never been a complete revolution that

impacted people as the revolution of visual recording (photography).

       Along with ‘this revolution in 1861 colored photography efforts came to success,

physicist James C. Maxwell produced the first permanent colored image using three cameras’

(Greenspun, 1999). This technique provided three basic channels that were required to create a

color photo in a darkroom. Still, colored photography maintained a novelty till Second World

War when some wealthy individuals became interested in documenting the war consequences

started to record images using colored photos. As a result, intelligence agencies became
THE PROGRESSION OF PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY                                                               4

interested the potential of the technology. They realized the value of the details the color photos

provided, therefore posted the deploying the technology. At that point of time colored photos

was a step ahead that distinguished and made colored photos more desirable privilege to have. on

the other hand it benefited businesses and became a new powerful medium.

       However, it was an effort to get a colored photo the standing time was long. It was a fact

that ‘the materials used very sensitive and required bright light setting and much longer sting

time than today’ (Rand & Meyer, 2011). Consequently William Henry Fox Talbot 1941

discovered the Calotype technique that allowed a faster photo processing time using Gallic Acid

a chemical that was used a silver coated chlorides that speeded the chemical reaction the minute

the image exposed to the light. Therefore reduced the camera exposure time down from one

hour to one minute. This allowed the first the opening of the first portrait studio in Paris by Mr.

Felix Nadar in 1853. People were able to take their photos at any time of the day with less


       Moving toward the 19th century ‘ a photographer named George Hurrell (1904-1992)

moved to Hollywood and took photographs of movie stars. Hurrells celebrity portraitists had a

great impact on how portraiture grew visually (Rand & Meyer, 2011). It has been observed that

‘Several schools opened to train photographers that featured strong portrait course work,

including Brooks Institute and Rochester Institute of Technology. As photography matured in

both technology and aesthetics, portraiture changed as well’ (Rand & Meyer, 2011, p. 17). It

has been remarked that, this reflected the publishing industry in the US and Europe as they

became very found and interested in buying portraitists which encouraged the sharing of style

and techniques (Rand & Meyer, 2011). This is the stage where portrait photography became the

backbone of the advertising industry.
THE PROGRESSION OF PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY                                                                 5

       Digital photography was next; in 1995 Kodak launched the first digital camera in the

market. The pictures taken were very small, immediate and no film required. The cameras were

small and popular especially for small businesses. Nowadays ‘ Modern technology and

photographic tools allow for the average person to take a portrait photograph, regardless of

experience, training, or even background’ (Classin, para. 1). It has been argued that ‘portraits

have also changed over the years. From individual to family shots and now to special occasions

– weddings and other special events are captured in portrait format. Portrait photography isn’t

magic but rather science at play. In the past, you need a background and the power of light to do

the trick. As technology advanced, it allowed the photographer to take all his necessary

equipment and gadgets (his camera) directly to the action no matter where it was’ (Classin, para.


       Unlike other photography styles, portraits stay the most common and popular of all.

Every photo whether its a spontaneous or a posing photo it holds a statement and a special,

unique moment that resembles that very moment of subject life. It is stated that ‘unlike any other

visual image, a photo is not a rending, an imitation or interpretation of its subject, but actually a

trace of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject in the way that a

photograph does’ (Berger, n.d.)
THE PROGRESSION OF PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY                                                       6


Berger, J. (n.d.). Quotation. Retrieved from

Classin, J. (n.d). The History of Portrait Photography . Retrieved from

Dynamic S. (n.d). The Psychology of Photography [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Foundation of Science, Technology and Civilization Ltd (2007). Vision and Cameras. In S. T.

       Al Hassani (Ed.), Muslim Heritage in Our World (2 ed., Ch.1). Istanbul, Turkey: Mega

       Basim .

Gernsheim, H. (1986). A Concise History of Photography (3 ed.). Canada : General Publishing

       Company Ltd.

Greenspun, P. (1999). History of Photography Timeline. Retrieved from

Rand, G., & Meyer, T. (2011). The Portrait: Understanding Portrait Photography (1st Edition

       ed.). Santa Barbara, CA : Rocky Nook, Inc.

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