Sunday, 5 September 2010

When is a Portrait not a Portrait...???

... when its a figure study ??

I am always intrigued at the definition of a portrait, an age old question maybe, but still unanswered. To many the definition of a Portrait is an image of a person, simple eh, but when we look at art nudes and in particular a figure study the question becomes more of a mystery.
So, following this logic an image of a torso surely cannot be a portrait as the subject is anonymous, its basically a body part.

Ok, lets include the head but use lighting or a viewpoint that conceals the identity of the person, still anonymous so still a figure study. Easy. But is it ? At which point does the subject become a recogisable person, an individual with a sole and not just an object for art or a subject for artistic appreciation ?

There is another school of thought that preaches that for an image of a person to be a portrait then the subject must be fully recognisable and maybe even with eye contact to the viewer, in which case is this a portrait ...??
... or these ??
If you are still with me you may be asking where this is going, and also who really cares ... good point.
Well, actually I care for one simple reason. Going back to the beginning I shared the view that a portrait is simply an image of a person, and this I agree with, at least when I am creating a 'portrait' for a client or a friend, and it's that word 'person' that is key. To me a portrait needs to show the character of or something about the person, it needs to be personal, it needs to portray their personality or their lifestyle be it real or fantasy. And to achieve this whether or not they are recognisable or fully visible is not important, what is important is does the image tell me anything about the person, their life, or their fantasies ?
This recent shot of model Joceline does not allude to her as a person, well, apart from me happening to know that she has a passion for sitting on old tree roots in the buff and going all windswept but that's for another day !!Now take another model Raphaella, these were shot for my portfolio as a sample of a style of portraiture, whilst to me this does represent her romantic character she is actually modeling so arguably it is an acted rather then real personality, but so what, a portrait can be fantasy.And finally some natural and personal images of Jelly, a student (at the time) who wanted to try something different, no posing, no pretending, just Jelly being Jelly seeking liberation through a nude photo session.