Its not at all surprising that the first flush of photographs were mostly portraits. There is an immense curiosity with the face of other humans. Recognition and familiarity is an important aspect of our willingness to look at other peoples' faces, especially in portraiture. It also seems a suitable way of describing someone, remembering someone or simply showing others what our ancestors looked like.
The portrait certainly has been romanticized, no less in photography. The search for inner meaning has been the focus of many a photographer and critic.
Many of us will find the honesty of a portrait distasteful, even abhorrent. Others will seek it out and display their finery at every opportunity. At the end of the day, none of this matters to the photographer or viewer, for they will formulate their won opinions and come to their own conclusions as to the nature of the subject.
As an actor might react to a camera under the direction of a script, we can learn to appreciate the value of the portrait in presenting the image we wish to share. The photographer can assist with this if they understand the basics of psychology and vanity.
Ultimately, the portrait enables us to know something of the person photographed, even if its merely the form the person represents. But the interaction of the photographer, the photographed and the viewer can only add to this. The portrait is no mystery. There is nothing mysterious about our fascination with other people. In understanding others we hope to gain insight into ourselves.
I'm inclined to thing it's the other way around.
|The accordion player 2012|