Historical royal family, kings and queens and

Historical and Critical Studies One: Origins and HistoriesPortraiturePortraiture has been amain element throughout art and photographic history, beginning with paintingsof the royal family, kings and queens and upper class citizens, as the art allowedthem to showcase their wealth and high social status.

Paintings involved a longprocess of the model sitting incredibly still, some even using poles and clampsto keep their posture and stance upright. This helped the artist paint theirproportions correctly, and make them look even more beautiful, which is whatthey wanted to portray. Portraitshave been a central part of the history of art, for instance, one of the mostfamous portrait paintings is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da’Vinci. This paintinghas been admired and celebrated since it was created in the 16thcentury, and is incredibly well-known. Leonardo Da Vinci purposefully smudgedthe facial expression of Mona Lisa so that she neither looks happy nor sad.This is a technique still used today, to leave the context completely up toviewers interpretation, it allows everyone to infer the mood and emotionalbackground of an image themselves. However, astechnology became more advanced, so did photography.

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Photographicprocesses quickly became cheaper, easier and faster to create with newdevelopments consistently being made, such as the daguerreotype, designed tocreate a permanent image using a drawing aid called the Camera Obscura, whichuses light sensitive materials to form an image on a glass plate. The first known portrait photograph was made byRobert Cornelius in 1839 with the use of a daguerreotype plate, of himself, whichhe titled “The first light picture ever taken”. Following this, In the1850s Andre-Adolphe-Eugene Disderi’s invention of the carte-de-visite became incrediblypopular amongst the upper class, as it was a way for them to boast about theirwealth and class. Even so, the middle class were also able to afford theseportraits themselves as a carte-de-visite miniature photograph was cheap tomake.

These mini portraits were small enough to be carried around, and many ofthem could be made at once as they were small enough to fit more than one on adaguerreotype plate. Portraiture was and still is, a means of identification,for example, the driving license, passport,student card etc. These images are well structured and easy to produce, as themain purpose of them is to show what the person looks like. Portraiture enabledpolice to form a systematicidentification imaging system, which helped to identify suspects and criminals.Portraits were and sometimes still are, a technique for a witness or victim toidentify a criminal.

A modern use for the portrait is facial recognition, whichis a device that recognises someone based on their facial features. This systemis used to unlock phones and to tag people in photographs on social networkingsites. Nevertheless, for thousands of years,people have also used the portrait as a way to express themselves, such astheir personality, wealth, homes, background and social status. Foryears, a studio was used for a practical and technical convenience for theartist, scenes were easy to construct, and clients were able to visit easily,ready to produce portraits of how they wished to appear. Clients were able to createtheir ideal portrait in regard of the background and how they looked – such asposition, facial expression, their clothing, their pose etc. The photographerhad more time to adjust the scene and the model, and create an image whichconveyed a certain concept such as an emotion like happiness or despair, unlikea painting which took hours of concentration and work. Within contemporaryphotography, artists can edit and manipulate a final image, in comparison towhat is seen through the camera.

There a lot more advancements within technology,like computers, cameras and Photoshop that allow the artist to convey the idealportrait they want.Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry 1984              In1984, Steve McCurry visited a refugee camp on the Afghan-Pakistan border, wherehe captured a striking portrait of a young child refugee, which was publishedon the front cover of the June 1985 National Geographic. The image was taken ona film camera, and it wasn’t until after McCurry developed the film, that heknew it was an incredibly powerful photograph that had to be shared. The’Afghan Girl’ has become incredibly popular, and has urged many people to helpand donate to refugee camps, and is the fundamental reason for the NationalGeographic setting up the Afghans Child Fund. The Afghan girl was only 12 yearsold at the time the photograph was captured, and her incredible green eyes drawthe most attention because, despite being in a vulnerable and dangeroussituation, the Afghan girl is powerful. The girl is looking directly into thecamera, and is therefore looking at anyone that looks at her, whichever angleyou look at this photo from, she is staring right at you. However, thewide-eyed stare, adds an element of terror and vulnerability, and viewers feelpity towards her, which is why this image has made such an impact on those thathave seen it. This image also has cultural and religious connotations, as thegirl is wearing a headscarf to commemorate where she comes from and belongs.

Tobegin with, Steve McCurry planned to document the life of refugee’s in theircamps, and approached the Afghan girl last as she seemed shy, he had no ideathe image would become such an international phenomenon, and because of itssuccess, wanted to discover her story. The image leaves a lot of questions unanswered.Until 2002 when the National Geographic and McCurry searched for her and sharedher incredible, but tough life story in their magazine. McCurry discovered thather name is Sharbut Gula, and she grew up surrounded by wars, she is full ofangst and anger, shown through her piercing green eyes,and wanted to express this emotion through the photograph McCurry was taking.The day McCurry found Sharbut Gula again, he photographed her once more, andwithin that image are the same pair of green eyes that people could not lookaway from.  Her skin has grown old, aswell as her facial structure, which is much softer. Steve McCurry produced animage that is not easily forgotten, and those that have seen it feel the powerof the sorrow they feel for Sharbut Gula when she was just a child, livingthrough the wars and invasions.

The original photo of the Afghan Girl tells herstory, portrays her anger and as a result, has influenced many people to helpand contribute to those that are sufferinglike her as a child as well. Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange 1936                 Thisphoto by Dorothea Lange is called the ‘Migrant Mother’ and was taken in 1936,during the Great Depression of America, but wasn’t printed until 1971. The Great Depression was an economic regression that began in 1929 and lasted untilabout 1939.

It was the longest and most severe depression ever experienced bythe industrialized Western world, and affected millions of lives. In thisiconic black-and-white photograph, the mother is shielding andprotecting her children which evokes real sadness and fear, as we pity the childrenfor feeling that way. People, especially parents sympathise with the mother, asher children hold onto her for comfort and safety.

The mother appears worried andis obviously deep in thought, as seen from her prominent frown lines. She is notconsidering the camera, as that would increase her vulnerability. Similarly, tothe Afghan Girl, the Migrant Mother portrays the anxiety and terror of what sheis currently going through in her life. Lange says that at the time the MigrantMother wanted to help her with her photographs, as she thought it might benefither own situation, so Lange took advantage of the opportunity and captured lotsof different images at different angles, and believed this one was the best.The mother and her children during this time, had been scrounging for food, tothe point where the mother had to sell the tires of her car to afford food and feedher children. In this image, the children are hiding behind their mother, shyingaway their faces.

The mother is protecting them, from the cameras and the real tragicworld. There were a lot of families like theirs, living through poverty andstarvation, which Lange wanted to make people aware of. The mother was alone, withouta husband, her main objective was to care for her children. Despite the tragic storybehind this image, the mother stands proud, tall and self-assured. After thisphotograph was printed, it became famous and the most familiar photograph inthe twentieth century.Tocompare the two photographs, both Steve McCurry and Dorothea Lange haveproduced powerful images that tell the story of the women in them, but stillleave many unanswered questions for the viewer to interpret and decide forthemselves, such as who the woman is, where they are, what their lives are likeetc. Both photographers attempt to spread awareness for what they arephotographing.

For instance, McCurry’s Afghan Girl spreads awareness aboutrefugees and the horrors of war. Whereas, Lange’s photograph of the MigrantMother portrays the distress poverty causes on people’s lives, especiallychildren who do not understand. Both women in these photos are under-privilegedwithin their lives. Both images have had a huge impact historically, by makingpeople sympathise with the women’s lifestyles. The Afghan Girl influenced somany people to involve themselves in charity work, and the Migrant Motherreminded people that poverty is a well-renowned problem in the world, that manypeople suffer living through. Mothers can relate to the Migrant Motherprotecting her children from their disastrous lifestyle, as parents will doanything for their children.

Photography is an art form that allows itscreators to spread awareness for social, cultural and political issues, such aspoverty and war, shown in these two images. War photography is an extremelypopular genre as it is powerful, and full of lots of emotion. Manyphotographers also shoot homeless people to present the lives of the poor andwhat they deal with daily, like living in the cold and dirt. However, eventhough both these photographs have encouraged people to help the disadvantaged,some may think that these types of images are glorifying the subject they aretrying to present. For example, Ingrid Sischy wrote in an essay about hisphotographs stating that: ‘This beautification of tragedy results in picturesthat ultimately reinforce our passivity toward the experience they reveal. Toaestheticize is the fastest way to anesthetize the feeling of those who arewitnessing it.

Beauty is a call to admiration, not to action.” Which highlightsthat people want to see beauty, not tragedy, and therefore try to find the goodin a photograph that is trying to promote awareness for something corrupt.Therefore, these photographs may result in the opposite of what they intend,and instead of raising awareness, they give the advantaged more power and anupper-hand on those that are show-cased in the image, such as those in poverty.Inconclusion, Portraiture has been an incredible breakthrough for photography,and has enabled the industry so much success.

To this current day, we are stillusing portraiture to express ourselves personally, emotionally, or to identifyourselves. Photography is a quick and easy art form that continues to grow andprogress, which allows artists to portray important issues within the world, aswell as being a creative way to express their opinions and point of views. Bothportraits from Steve McCurry and Dorothea Lange are influential and strikingimages, that have influenced the public for the better. Both photographers’ goaland inspiration were to create awareness for what they were photographing, therefugee’s and the poor, and influence people to help the lives of the less-advantaged.


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