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Portrait Photography

Portraiture is fundamental to the history of photography, and is one of its principle uses from its inception in the mid 19th century. Portraiture was no longer the privilege of the upper class, as photography made it accessible to the masses. Initially, long exposure times rendered it impossible to capture sitters clearly, but the technology improved with the daguerreotype and subsequent processes.

The daguerreotype produced a single image, but experiments with the wet plate collodion method yielded the ability to print multiple images quickly so families could have multiple portraits from one sitting. In a matter of only a few years, entrepreneurs such as Gaspar Felix Tournachon (Nadar) had opened commercial portrait studios both for celebrities and political figures as well as for the masses. Nadar pioneered techniques for posing sitters to achieve his own particular recognizable style. His contemporary, André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri achieved success with the development of the carte de visite, using a special camera that allowed him to make eight negatives at once.

Carte de visits were small portraits that friends exchanged and collected. Over time, the portrait was a reflecting pool for the various styles that took hold of the medium, from pictorial photography with its soft effects to street photography that captured people unaware, to the straight unflinching clarity of the 20th century.


Quick Facts

  • In addition to his advancements in the commercialization of photography for portraiture, Nadar was also well known for taking the first aerial photographs in a balloon above Paris
  • The famous yet amateur Pre-Rafaelite photographer Julia Margaret Cameron is known for the soft, pictorial effects of her celebrity portraits taken in the 1860s and '70s. She often intentionally increased the exposure time of her photographs to create the soft-focus effect
  • Richard Avedon is one of the most influential portrait photographers to emerge in the 20th century. His portraits were characterized by a close focus on the face against a white background, allowing each portrait to become a psychological and emotional study of the sitter

Recommended Items at Auction

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Thomas Hart Benton Signed/Inscribed 1930 Photograph by Peter Juley
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TSAR NICHOLAS II.
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Oct 24, 12:00 PM EDT
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1977 John Lennon arrives at New York's Minskoff Theater – press photo
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Nov 07, 12:00 PM EDT
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Oct 28, 10:00 AM EDT
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AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN TINTYPE PHOTOGRAPH PORTRAIT
Oct 30, 10:00 AM EDT
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AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN TINTYPE PHOTOGRAPH PORTRAIT
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BERENICE ALICE ABBOTT, CHICKEN MARKET - 1937
Oct 24, 12:00 PM EDT
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PHILIPPE HALSMAN, PICASSO BEING DALI SURREAL FACE, 1954
Oct 24, 12:00 PM EDT
PHILIPPE HALSMAN, PICASSO BEING DALI SURREAL FACE, 1954
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RICHARD AVEDON - DOVIMA WITH ELEPHANTS, 1955
Oct 24, 12:00 PM EDT
RICHARD AVEDON - DOVIMA WITH ELEPHANTS, 1955
by Luxury Fine Arts
Est: $200- $400
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RICHARD AVEDON- CHER, LOS ANGELES, 14. SEPTEMBER 1974.
Oct 24, 12:00 PM EDT
RICHARD AVEDON- CHER, LOS ANGELES, 14. SEPTEMBER 1974.
by Luxury Fine Arts
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$1001 Bid
RICHARD AVEDON - STEPHANIE SEYMOUR, NY - 1992
Oct 24, 12:00 PM EDT
RICHARD AVEDON - STEPHANIE SEYMOUR, NY - 1992
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Est: $200- $400
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BERENICE ALICE ABBOTT, CENTRE STREET - 1937
Oct 24, 12:00 PM EDT
BERENICE ALICE ABBOTT, CENTRE STREET - 1937
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Stella McCartney, a mini Falabella box leopard print crossbody handbag,
Oct 28, 10:00 AM BST
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Est: £100- £200
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TIN FLANGE SIGN LESH GOLDEN GLOW AUTO OILS
Dec 03, 9:00 AM CST
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Est: $0- $0
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IRVING PENN - FOUR DUSEK BROTHERS IN NY, 1948
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Sellers Who Sell Portrait Photography


Luxury Fine Arts

Luxury Fine Arts

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Artelisted

Karamitsos

Karamitsos