History of Portrait Photography

History of Portrait Photography- A Brief Description

The portrait is a kind of photography where a person captures the personality of a person or of a group of people. Portraits are of two kinds. One is normally portrait, where one takes shots of another. And another type is self-portraits, where one takes shots of themselves.

Portraits are the history’s oldest and most famous photography. The Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, and Romans represented their portraits with carving, sculptures and wall painting.

Let’s take a little tour with me through the history of portraiture.

History of Portrait Photography

  • The Early Days

Louis Daguerre, who first introduced the concept of photography to the French science academy in 1839, can be credited as the inventor of modern photography. At that same year, Robert Cornelius gave the idea of photography which was considered as the portrait photography.

  • In 1839

The Daguerreotype came about, which is a fixed image onto a sheet of silver-plated copper. Which didn’t need hours of sitting for a simple portrait. Resulting in making it more popular and interesting. This is generally accepted as the actual birth of practical photography.

  • During the mid-19th century

In the mid-19th century, industrial revolution happened. Which results in increasing living and standard living for the average population. This brought the popularity of painting into the homes of a middle class. The mass production of oil paints and canvases were available in store and they could paint whatever they want.

  • In the 1960’s

Artists such as Lichtenstein and Warhol use portraits as comments on pop culture. And also in the commercialization of art.

Portrait Photography

  • Mid 90’s

In the mid 90’s, computer-based digital cameras came in play. Which made photography a lot easier. People could take photos without many consequences. There was no need of paying for films and no need of developments. This made portraits photography lot easier and more available for all class of people.

  • Preservation of History

In the Renaissance, there were portraits of wealthy people, royals, and religious figures. Having your portrait taken was a status symbol because of the great expense that commissioning an artist was. The materials were very expensive making portraits available to those who had money.

During the civil war in 1861, portraits of battlefield and soldiers were taken to preserve the history of war. And for the soldiers, having a portrait of their loved one become popular.

  • Keeping records of Criminals

Portraits photography came very handily in crime investigation too.  Allan Pinkerton first introduced portraits photography in 1870 by taking photos of criminals. This was a great deal in the history of portrait photography and still is.

  • Preservation of the dead

The preservation of loved ones was started with taking portraits of them to remember them even after death. This started during Victorian age due to widespread diseases.

  • Public Documentation

In the beginning of 20th century, child labor was a big issue. For the documentation of child labor, Lewis Hine was hired in 1906. His photographs helped in banning oppressive child labor. From then, portrait photography in public documentation became quite famous.

Then in 1914, U.S State Department started to photograph on all passport. Which revolutionized the portraiture.

  • 2005-present

Portraits nowadays become very available and cheap. Once general portraits were more famous. But now self-portraits have become very famous among all class of people. There are many varieties of photographic cameras now. But yet handheld mobile device’s self-portraits became increasingly popular. Which came to play with the name ‘Selfies’. It was lead to popularization by the self-portrait taken by Elle DeGenerous at the Oscars.

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