Photographic Portrait

“Photography transformed subject into object, and even, one might say, into a museum object”  (Barthes, 2000, p. 13)

In his book Camera Lucida, Barthes describes the moment of being photographed as a mortification or humiliation as one becomes an object and do not struggle until he becomes a total image!  When a portrait is taken of the subject; four image-repertoires intersect he explains, in front of the lens the person being photographed is the one he thinks he is, the one he wants others to think he is, the one the photographer thinks he is and the one the photographer makes use of to exhibit his art.

Ute Eskildsen in his book Street & Studio states that we can show ourselves in a pose but we also hide behind a pose.  The staged photographic portrait however encourages the pose.  To remove the mask and show the real self; Philippe Halsman a famous American photographer asked his subjects to jump for him while taking their photos.  When jumping one cannot have full control of his expression thus the mask falls.  His developed philosophy of jump photography is called “Jumpology”.

©Pililippe Halsman

Juergen Teller:

Juergen Teller a German artist and fine-art and fashion photographer in his series “Go Sees” decided to ask the agencies to send the girls to his studio instead of he going to them for a casting shoot.  He decided to photograph them while they visit him to turn the result into a convincing conceptual piece of art photography.  Below is a video of him

The photographer used the space of his hallway and frame of the door as a catwalk for the young women to show their talent.  The space functioned as a gate between street and studio photography.


©Juergen Teller


©Juergen Teller

Photographic portrait is two: one that is made in the studio and the other taken in the street.  Photos of subjects in the street can be taken while they are unaware, on the contrary, in the studio the opportunity is more of a staged portrait or one that offers more technical devices, props and backdrops.  However, this tradition has been changed since the studio is now used for informal and intimate shots and celebrities are expected to pose for the paparazzi in the street!

An example of using the street as a site of staging is the photograph of the English photographer Norman Parkinson:


©Norman Pakinson


On the other hand, the American photographer Andres Serrano’s portraits of homeless individuals in New York shows how studio photography started recording people from the street.  In his series “Nomad” he photographed the homeless in a studio style portraits.

©Andres Serrano


Roderick McNicol

I enjoyed a video interview with photographer Roderick McNicol called “A Portrait Revisited: 1986, 2006”.  McNicol created a series of studio portraits of his subjects called “A Portrait” and twenty years later he brought many of them back and created a series called “A Portrait Revisited: 1986, 2006”.  Below is the video of the interview:


Bibliography / References:

Lensculture. A Portrait Revisited: 1986, 2006 [online].  Video Interview with Roderick McNicol.  Available from: [Accessed 31 October, 2016].

Roland Barthes, (2008) Camera Lucida. TATE Publishing: London.

TATE Modern.  Street & Studio: An Urban History of Photography  [online]. TATE. Available from: [Accessed 31 October, 2016].

Ute Eskildsen, (2000) Street & Studio: An Urban History of Photography. Vintage: London.





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