Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site.
Find out more
The Sunflower
CREDIT: Paul Mellon Fund, National Gallery of Art Washington DC

Portrait photography in print

Studying stuff in The Journal

I would not profess to be any good at it myself but I am fascinated by the ways in which different photographers choose to represent their sitter in portrait photography. Here are a few examples I have found in galleries recently. I can now add to this a recent thought provoking article in The Journal.

I spent hours admiring the work of Alfred Eisenstaedt on a visit to Washington DC. The work on show had a journalism intent and for me captured an impression of the character of public figures.

While in Lisbon I went to see two contrasting exhibitions. The first was the work of Cartier-Bresson with a similar theme to Eisenstaedt but a different style. The second was of the Hollywood publicity machine, showing portraits of how the studios would like their stars to be perceived. Here I was particularly taken by the more "painterly" style of Ruth Harriet Louise and the parallels I saw with the earlier work by Julia Margaret Cameron.

These themes were revisited when I read "Through the looking glass", an article in the June 2020 edition of the Journal showcasing the photographic work of Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. It shows the portrait shoots featuring a young Alice Liddell, the inspiration for his Alice in Wonderland character. The article does a great job in setting this work in time and place; I see it as contemporary work of its time. It does all the “why” and a little of the “how” of the work, it puts in social context and explores the artists thoughts. And it really comes over as written by someone who knows what they are talking about.

I do like the construction of his images. I went to see some of the Dodgson prints while in Washington but was also taken by some other work that  may well be a portrait of a grown up Alice, again by Julia Margaret Cameron in the Eye of the Sun exhibition. It was taken in the 1870s and was attributed to parallel the aesthetic movement, adopting flowers as its symbol and prizing decoration and beauty as an end goal for art. See what you think.