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Portrait Photography

In the 1830s, Nièpce discovered the process for setting images onto pewter plates. In 1833, upon Nièpce’s death, Louis Daguerre and François Arago continued his experiments and invented the daguerreotype, a process which created a printed image on a silver plate that had been exposed to light. Photography was born.

Similarly to how portrait painting had dominated artistic output in previous centuries, portrait photography was to become the pillar of the Second French Empire’s photographic industry. Lenses with a shorter focal length, which enabled reduced exposure times, gradually appear on the market. The required equipment was expensive and difficult to handle. Some photographers, called daguerreotypists, decided to open their own photography studios to make a profit from their endeavours. The daguerreotype process was temperamental, and photographers had to take their pictures with great precision and attention to detail. They welcomed many people into their studios and customers choose how they wished to be photographed from catalogue of poses. Originally only accessible to the bourgeoisie, lower prices resulting from the growing number of studios eventually attracted a wider customer base. This phenomenon infuriated the poet Charles Baudelaire who was frustrated by the sense of narcissism sparked by the daguerreotypists.

Despite his protests, the egotistical trend only grew with the emergence of ‘carte de visite’ portraits (small photographs, the size of today’s business cards). These were the brainchild of Adolphe Eugène Disdéri came up with the idea of producing portraits akin to visiting cards in 1859. He printed eight portraits in a variety of poses onto a single plate and once developed they could be cut up into eight distinct “visiting cards”. Very popular with the bourgeoisie, they highlighted the sitters’ social status. ‘Carte de visite’ portraits featuring celebrities were also sold to customers, who could subsequently add them to their albums.

The photographer Nadar was one of the first to demonstrate a conscious artistic approach to producing these portraits. He emphasised facial expressions and ensured the sitter was comfortable and at ease before taking the photograph. He photographed the era’s greatest thinkers and artists, including Honoré de Balzac, George Sand, and Victor Hugo. He even managed to reconcile Baudelaire with portraiture.

At the end of the 19th century, the art of photography started to enter the mainstream, with the arrival of the Kodak company. The use of the camera, and the taking of portraits, became everyday occurrences. A century later, it was the invention of the digital camera which challenged the status quo. Whereas before alterations could only be made to photographs when they were being taken or developed, with the digital camera editing became easier, quicker and more convenient. Digital photography has given photographers much more freedom when it comes to editing and new methods and techniques are constantly being explored.

Some of the photographers who have left their mark on the last century include: Cindy Sherman, who excelled in self-portraits, Annie Leibovitz, who captured celebrities, the wacky duo, Pierre and Gilles, as well as Diane Arbus, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, and Bettina Rheims.

So, do portraits help us to learn more about each other, to remember, to invent, to act, or to reconnect with ourselves? Find out on Artsper, by exploring the works of Formento & Formento, Naomi Vona, Ahmed Bennani, Chou Ching Hui, Samuel Cueto, Brno del Zou, Ren Hang, Markus + Indrani, Jerome Liebling as well as Annina Roescheisen.

Collector’s Guide: Collecting Fine Art Photographs

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Hassan Hajjaj, JR, Photography

Hassan Hajjaj

JR, 2018
44.1 x 29.9 x 0.4 inch


Samuel Cueto, Silence, Photography

Samuel Cueto

Silence, 2014
19.7 x 15.7 inch


Alia Ali, TadhHiya 9:2, Photography

Alia Ali

TadhHiya 9:2, 2021
42.1 x 28.3 x 2.4 inch


Liu Bolin, Hiding in Italy - Piazza di Spagna, Photography

Liu Bolin

Hiding in Italy - Piazza di Spagna, 2018
26.8 x 35.4 inch


Larry Clark, Sans titre 3 (Jonathan), Photography

Larry Clark

Sans titre 3 (Jonathan), 2005
9.1 x 6.7 x 0 inch


James Sparshatt, La vieja guajira, Photography

James Sparshatt

La vieja guajira, 2000
13.8 x 13.8 x 0.4 inch


John Kenny, Behind the Great Mosque in Djenne, Photography

John Kenny

Behind the Great Mosque in Djenne, 2006
26.4 x 17.7 x 0.8 inch


Grzegorz Sikorski, In Silk We Trust! 2, Photography

Grzegorz Sikorski

In Silk We Trust! 2, 2019
22 x 19.7 x 0 inch


Simona Rota, Chrysalis 2. Big Exit off series, Photography

Simona Rota

Chrysalis 2. Big Exit off series, 2012
5.1 x 7.1 x 0.8 inch


Ifig, Jungle Fever (Série), Photography


Jungle Fever (Série), 2021
16.5 x 11.8 inch


Rose Hartman, Donna Karan Models Backstage, 1985, Photography

Rose Hartman

Donna Karan Models Backstage, 1985, 2021
20 x 24 x 0.1 inch


David Van Dartel, Guido en Sil in de Kwelder - Guido and Sil in the Salt Marsh, Photography

David Van Dartel

Guido en Sil in de Kwelder - Guido and Sil in the Salt Marsh, 2020
19.3 x 13 inch


Leila Boucif, Ensemble, Photography

Leila Boucif

Ensemble, 2017
23.6 x 15.7 x 0.1 inch


Valérie Donzelli, De Myrha à Babylone - Jeanne visage baissé, Photography

Valérie Donzelli

De Myrha à Babylone - Jeanne visage baissé, 2015
19.7 x 19.7 inch


Quentin DMR, Seth Guecko, Photography

Quentin DMR

Seth Guecko, 2020
11.8 x 7.9 x 0.2 inch


Lisa Toboz, Ghost Story, Photography

Lisa Toboz

Ghost Story, 2020
9.4 x 7.9 x 0 inch

$424 $471

Forough Yavari, The Courtesan, Photography

Forough Yavari

The Courtesan, 2016
40 x 32 x 1 inch


Beatriz Moreno, Métamorphose de Medusa, Photography

Beatriz Moreno

Métamorphose de Medusa, 2017
23.6 x 16.5 x 0.1 inch


Charles Hamonnais, Human Metamorphosis - 02, Photography

Charles Hamonnais

Human Metamorphosis - 02, 2021
19.7 x 27.6 inch


Leanne Surfleet, Self-Portrait, Photography

Leanne Surfleet

Self-Portrait, 2020
19.7 x 19.7 x 0 inch


Clare Marie Bailey, Other Side of the Eye, Photography

Clare Marie Bailey

Other Side of the Eye, 2019
15.7 x 15.7 x 0 inch


Alex, Les enfants des rues, les Talibés, Photography


Les enfants des rues, les Talibés, 2019
33 x 23.4 inch


Clara Delaporte, Les champs, Photography

Clara Delaporte

Les champs, 2020
23.6 x 35.4 x 0.8 inch


Alexander Benz, Styled, Photography

Alexander Benz

Styled, 2021
31.5 x 31.5 x 0.1 inch


Dasha Pears, Target, Photography

Dasha Pears

Target, 2019
27.6 x 27.6 x 0 inch


Hélène Guetary, Arbres Vivants, de la série 'Hypnopompia' [polaroid unique], Photography

Hélène Guetary

Arbres Vivants, de la série 'Hypnopompia' [polaroid unique], 1986
23.6 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch


Maxime Vignaud, He will take you by the hand and accompany you, Photography

Maxime Vignaud

He will take you by the hand and accompany you, 2020
19.7 x 15.7 inch


Riccardo Bandiera, Watching The World Pass us by #03, Photography

Riccardo Bandiera

Watching The World Pass us by #03, 2018
5.5 x 8.3 inch

$298 $372

Anja Diabaté, The Lion, Photography

Anja Diabaté

The Lion, 2020
15.7 x 23.6 x 0.4 inch


Helmut Grill, 19 September 2006, Photography

Helmut Grill

19 September 2006, 2006
47.2 x 70.9 inch


Bernard Pras, 236. Clint, Photography

Bernard Pras

236. Clint, 2021
35.4 x 35.4 x 1.2 inch


Our recommendations Feng Kaixuan, Don de soi 5, Photography

Feng Kaixuan

Don de soi 5, 2015
23.6 x 35.4 x 0.4 inch

$4,578 $5,086

Man Ray, Portrait of Francis Picabia, Photography

Man Ray

Portrait of Francis Picabia, 1935
10.6 x 8.3 x 0.1 inch


Ghost Art, Scarface, Photography

Ghost Art

Scarface, 2019
39.4 x 39.4 x 0.4 inch


Monika Nowak, Crazy Stacy, Photography

Monika Nowak

Crazy Stacy, 2017
31.5 x 31.5 x 1.2 inch


Zakari Babel, Épreuve 8, Photography

Zakari Babel

Épreuve 8, 2015
9.4 x 14.2 x 0.2 inch


Ebuka Michael, Bad Habits - Greed, Photography

Ebuka Michael

Bad Habits - Greed, 2019
15.7 x 11.8 x 0.1 inch


Françoise Dugourd-Caput, Attrape cœur, Photography

Françoise Dugourd-Caput

Attrape cœur, 2019
27.6 x 39.4 inch


Charlotte Abramow, Find Your Clitoris II, Photography

Charlotte Abramow

Find Your Clitoris II, 2017
8.3 x 6.3 inch


Robert Longo, A Single Frame, Photography

Robert Longo

A Single Frame, 1995
8.1 x 10 x 0.1 inch


Louis Oke-Agbo, Sans titre 1, Photography

Louis Oke-Agbo

Sans titre 1, 2018
11.8 x 15.7 x 0.1 inch


Aurélie Sarramon, Sans titre 12, Photography

Aurélie Sarramon

Sans titre 12, 2016
14.2 x 9.4 inch


Jacques Bosser, Calintz, Photography

Jacques Bosser

Calintz, 2009
31.5 x 25.6 x 1.2 inch


Maud Chalard, Lost & Found, Photography

Maud Chalard

Lost & Found, 2019
7.9 x 11.8 x 0.8 inch


Jorg Karg, A Fragile Glow, Photography

Jorg Karg

A Fragile Glow, 2019
51.2 x 43.3 x 0 inch


Bruno Fournier, Sans titre 3, Photography

Bruno Fournier

Sans titre 3, 2017
23.6 x 35.4 x 1.2 inch


Ka Xiaoxi, Windy Girls, Photography

Ka Xiaoxi

Windy Girls, 2012
15.7 x 23.6 x 0.2 inch


Virginie Soubeiroux, Homeostasis, Photography

Virginie Soubeiroux

Homeostasis, 2017
70.9 x 39.4 inch


Zahrin Kahlo, Kelaa, Photography

Zahrin Kahlo

Kelaa, 2015
23.6 x 19.7 x 0.2 inch


Bruno Timmermans, Bowie +, Photography

Bruno Timmermans

Bowie +, 2011
39.4 x 39.4 inch


John Yuyi, Pay 3, Photography

John Yuyi

Pay 3, 2018
35.4 x 23.6 x 0.2 inch


Karine Paoli, Têtes d'Affiches #1, Photography

Karine Paoli

Têtes d'Affiches #1, 1993
48 x 29.9 x 1.2 inch


Daniele Sigalot, Self portrait on the gulf on Naples, Photography

Daniele Sigalot

Self portrait on the gulf on Naples, 2019
23.6 x 35.4 inch


Tomaas, Vegan beauty, Photography


Vegan beauty, 2014
23.6 x 20.1 inch


Bert Stern, Marilyn in Vogue (1962), Photography

Bert Stern

Marilyn in Vogue (1962), 2011
18.9 x 13 x 0.4 inch


Richard Melloul, Sammy Davis, Photography

Richard Melloul

Sammy Davis, 1995
70.9 x 47.2 x 1.2 inch


Anthony Mirial, Blessures de guerre, Photography

Anthony Mirial

Blessures de guerre, 2015
49.2 x 33.5 inch


Yions Schwenke, Setting, Photography

Yions Schwenke

Setting, 2015
47.2 x 31.5 x 0.8 inch


Delphine Diallo, Warrior Bloodline, Photography

Delphine Diallo

Warrior Bloodline, 2018
27.6 x 19.7 x 0.8 inch


Su Yang, A Strange Encounter, Photography

Su Yang

A Strange Encounter, 2017
19.7 x 15.7 x 0.1 inch


Yagazie Emezi, When Did A Piece Fall Off #1, Photography

Yagazie Emezi

When Did A Piece Fall Off #1, 2016
23.4 x 33.1 inch


Maud Bernos, François Gabart, Photography

Maud Bernos

François Gabart, 2013
5.9 x 5.9 inch


Songlin Ji, Manger la montagne no.1, Photography

Songlin Ji

Manger la montagne no.1, 2020
19.7 x 27.6 x 0.4 inch


Nicolas Demeersman, Le Chaman - Nazca Line, Pérou, Photography

Nicolas Demeersman

Le Chaman - Nazca Line, Pérou, 2011
39.4 x 39.4 inch


60 Artworks on 4445

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