June 10, 2017

What is a Portrait? | Portrait Photography

What is a portrait?  As a Portrait Photographer, I often think about what Portrait Photography is.  I found the definition of the word “portrait.”   A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person.  Thank you, Wikipedia.

Painting Vigee-LeBrun
This is a portrait by Vigee-LeBrun of Catherine the Great’s two granddaughters.  Vigee-LeBrun is one of my favorite Portrait Artists.

Portraits have been around since the dawn of time.  I think they speak to the universal desire to be immortal.  Portraits can be very powerful. They freeze a moment in time that people want to relive.  They also help convey to the world what the subject or artist wants the world to know about the person.  In history, portraits have been used as an early form of Public Relations.  Multiple copies of a leader’s portraits or statues would be sent throughout the realm to give a face to the government.

Julie Le-Brun
Another by Vigee-LeBrun, this time of her daughter, Julie.

I have been interested in portraits from very early on.  When I was a child, my parents would take my brother, sister, and I to museums in and around NYC.  My favorite was–and still is–the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I love the paintings there, especially the portraits.  In the last couple of years, I have gotten to see beautiful exhibits by two of my favorite artists, John Singer Sargent and Vigee-Le Brun.  Looking at their work, you can really get a sense of who their subjects were.  They were masters at conveying mood and expression.  They were also great at composition and technique.  The scale of the work was also impressive–many of the paintings were life size or larger.

Saratoga Springs NY Newborn Photo
One of my favorite Mother and Child photos to date.

Before photography, people used to commission an artist to make a painting of themselves or a loved one.  The job of a portrait artist is to of course depict the person, but to also show them in the most flattering way.  It was a very time consuming and labor intensive process.  These portraits were treasured and well cared for, which is why they still exist and hang in museums today.  Even ordinary people would find a way to scrape together enough money to pay an itinerant artist to paint their family.  Many of these paintings are labeled as Folk Art–they are not as technically perfect as some of the art created by court painters, but they were no less treasured by the owners.  Before the iPhone, people would have miniatures made so they could take a portrait of their loved one with them everywhere. Portraits were that important.

Corporate Portrait Photography
Corporate Head Shots are Portraits that are used for Public Relations.  Whether it is corporate identity or personal branding, portrait photography is a form of Public Relations.

I think my love of this art form is what drives me in my work–I like the idea of people treasuring a visual representation of someone they love.  I believe that portrait photography should be more than simply a record of what a person is wearing.  I really want to convey expression and personality in my portraits.  I try to find out as much as I can about the people I am photographing so I can convey who they are in my photos.

Senior Portrait Photography Glens Falls
Senior Portraits are almost a right of passage.  Having a professional Portrait Photographer capture this time in life is very special.

So whether you rule a small country, or just your own private corner of the world, give me a call.  I would love to photograph your portraits.  You can reach me at 518.584.4237 or you can use the Contact form.

Be sure to check out more Portrait Photography in our galleries.  May we suggest the Maternity and Newborn Portfolio?