Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Epoch: Historic Portraits

Twelve portraits on Display in the Cochenour Gallery Thursday, April 7 through Thursday, April 14 created by ART 370: Portrait and Lighting.

If it is even conceivable, try to consider what it would be like to only have one photograph of yourself. What’s more, pretend that this portrait doesn’t occur until you are roughly 20 years old. And one more thing, this picture can only be seen by one person at a time.

This was the case in the mid to late 19th century. The photographic process had just been discovered and it was making its way from Europe to the United States. At that time it was the Daguerreotype capturing the most accurate likeness of individuals and democratizing portraiture.

In response to these considerations, ART 370: Photographic Portrait & Lighting revisited this idea, creating portraits in a manner somewhat similar to early photographic processes. Although our images were produced using the technology of today, a key feature was revived—the extended exposure.

Due to limitations of chemical processes and quality of optics, early photographic production required extremely long shutter speeds by comparison to today’s standards, sometimes needing minutes, if not hours to make an exposure. As the technology improved, times were reduced to as few as thirty seconds.

The portraits on display here embrace this feature of the long exposure (typically 20-30 seconds) and the psychology of a single photograph potentially representing one’s self for a lifetime. It is perhaps a peculiar notion in today’s world of social media and connectedness, but one that has produced moving results.

1 comment:

Earl Grey said...

Thanks for this post and for putting together this exhibition. I just came back from another glimpse of it. I look forward to visiting it again.

With 2011 being remembered as the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, I am reminded of the place of portraiture during the war (for documentary as well as aggrandizing means). This exhibition and post reminds us of the place of visual records to serve, too, as official documents of a particular time, place, and personality.

There are numerous examples of 19th century photographs by the pioneers of American photography in the collections of the National Archives. For example, check out this amazing photo of the man soldiers called "Uncle Billy":

Being an Atlantan, I think I can see why Southerners were intimidated by Sherman's march to the sea.