Thursday, February 26, 2009

Portraits... a lot more complicated than they look...

In today's day and age, it seems very simple to have a portrait of yourself or others taken in an instant. With the technology available today it is a simple as a pose and a click of a button on the newest digital camera. These cameras do everything from centering the picture to cropping and editing with the click of a few buttons. What many eople do not think about though is about the time before digital cameras. So what exactly did early portraits look like? How were they done? and of course to whom were they available to?
Portraits first came about with the invention of the daguerreotyped plate form of photography. Although this was the earliest form of photography, and the exposure and resolution were not of the highest quality, it gave a more detailed and direct picture than a picture that was painted by human hands. These portraits however were not originally taken of people. According to Miles Orwell in his article " Presenting the Self" he states that "Initially, given the long exposure time required to take an image, the subject had to be immobilized, and so buildings and other stationary objects proved to be most cooperative; but as the chemistry and techniques improved(...) it became possible to make images of the human subject" This advance in the time of exposure gave way to what was known as the " private portrait".

These private portraits were the ones that were available to the general public. Before the invention of the photographs such as the daguerreotype, only painted pictures were available. These painted pictures took a large chunk of time and were very expensive. The invention of the photograph allowed working class families to afford pictures, rather than having to splurge on the very expensive painted portraits. Some of thee studios would charge around 50 cents an image, and even if the pictures were small, citizens still valued and cherished these pictures. After reading through a lot of information on these early pictures, I have come to greatly appreciate the simplicity and quality of digital cameras. Here is something now to think about the next time you whip out a digital camera or picture phone.


At 4:58 PM, Blogger A. Mattson said...

A good discussion. Does digital photography serve the same function in your life as the "private portrait" described by Orwell? Is there still a connection to status? Perhaps the type of camera itself has become the status symbol rather than the portrait?


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