Contemporary Portrait Photography
“A portrait! What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound.” —Charles Baudelaire
The emergence of photography in the 19th century prompted a decisive shift in the long-standing tradition of portraiture, a transformation it continues to fuel today. Rineke Dijkstra’s stark and luminous large-scale portraits capture solitary subjects whose direct, unselfconscious gazes penetrate the picture plane, while Sally Mann employs early photographic processes to create delicately intimate portraits that often reveal imperfections characteristic of old cameras and printing techniques. Philip-Lorca diCorcia uses both digital and Polaroid cameras to generate a wide range of portraits, from staged scenes filled with psychological tension, to documentary portrayals of pedestrians on city streets. These myriad approaches reveal a desire to push the limitations of both the medium of photography and the genre of portraiture by re-appropriating outmoded practices and embracing new ones.