Date of Award
Master of Arts
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), School of Visual Arts
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
Dr Christopher Crouch
Photographic artists have a continuing desire to express intimately aspects of their social world through the genre of portraiture. However, in attempting to make known the lives of those around them, portraitists encounter a range of complexities inherent in the representation of the human subject in a two-dimensional visual field. Portraits were initially an indicator of social class until the introduction of photography, when more and more people became involved in their production and ownership. It was at its inception that the photographic portrait assumed conventions consistent with those of the painted portrait in Western art and its social use. These conventions have persisted and, along with the accumulation of conventions specific to the medium, have come to define photographic portraiture as a genre. It is either from within the limitations of the genre, or through the challenging of its authority, that artists seek to portray issues relevant to contemporary life. This endeavour is affected by certain concerns associated with a person's photographic representation. These include issues pertaining to notions of likeness, identity, subjectivity, and realism. A photographic image of someone has traditionally been perceived to convey a realistic impression of that person's identity, however, concepts of identity and realism have come under increasing scrutiny, contesting the authority of the photographic representation. The portrait's verisimilitude is also undermined by limitations in photographic processes and technology, and the manipulation and control exercised by the photographer who can frame, filter, crop, and enlarge the image at will. In considering the inadequacies of the medium, the fragmentation of identity and subjectivity, and threats concerning the demise of the genre, a further concern to contemporary portraiture is the status of the psychological interaction between photographer and subject. For many participants this exchange is an important aspect of the portrait transaction in which rituals of pose and performance are enacted, and feeling states or emotional truths are sought out. Kozloff (1994, p. 4) considers stilt portraits to be scanty objects in which the intricacies of human experience are inadequately represented, yet they remain as a site for the documentation of experiences that are to become memories. The increasing influence of digital media in photography presents an opportunity for the re-evaluation of these concerns, and new creative and expressive possibilities.
Munsie, R. (2002). Intimation of life : photographic portraiture in art. Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/719