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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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Daguerreotype Photograph 1/4 Plate Size
Feb 24, 10:00 AM MST
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/4 Plate Size
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$856 Bids
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/6 Plate Size
Feb 24, 10:00 AM MST
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/6 Plate Size
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
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Photo of noble with very ornate gilt metal frame
Feb 26, 12:00 PM PST
Photo of noble with very ornate gilt metal frame
by International Auction Gallery
Est: $80- $150
$205 Bids
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/6 Plate Size
Feb 24, 10:00 AM MST
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/6 Plate Size
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$855 Bids
Helmut Newton (Berlin 1920 - Los Angeles 2004). Encounter.
Feb 24, 11:00 AM CET
Helmut Newton (Berlin 1920 - Los Angeles 2004). Encounter.
by Auktionshaus Stahl
Est: €0- €0
€6005 Bids
PHILIPPE HULINE (FILIPS) - Spike Lee Hooker St.
Feb 25, 1:00 PM CST
PHILIPPE HULINE (FILIPS) - Spike Lee Hooker St.
by Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting
Est: $70- $90
$385 Bids
Antique Photo of 3 Young Boys in Convex Glass Oval Frame
Feb 23, 9:00 AM EST
Antique Photo of 3 Young Boys in Convex Glass Oval Frame
by Apple Tree Auction Center
Est: $0- $0
$254 Bids
Early Photograph Collection
Mar 02, 9:00 AM EST
Early Photograph Collection
by Dovetail Auctions, LLC
Est: $5- $500
$253 Bids
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/6 Plate Size
Feb 24, 10:00 AM MST
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/6 Plate Size
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$203 Bids
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/4 Plate Size
Feb 24, 10:00 AM MST
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/4 Plate Size
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$353 Bids
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/6 Plate Size
Feb 24, 10:00 AM MST
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/6 Plate Size
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$303 Bids
[PERFORMERS]. Group of 21 Cabinet Card and CDV Port...
Mar 07, 10:00 AM CST
[PERFORMERS]. Group of 21 Cabinet Card and CDV Port...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $400- $600
$2002 Bids
Antique Tintype Photograph Portraits (6)
Mar 09, 10:00 AM EST
Antique Tintype Photograph Portraits (6)
by Roland Auctions NY
Est: $75- $100
$102 Bids
Jackie Stanton: Mick Jagger
Feb 29, 10:00 AM PST
Jackie Stanton: Mick Jagger
by Abell Auction
Est: $100- $100,000
$1252 Bids
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/4 Plate Size
Feb 24, 10:00 AM MST
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/4 Plate Size
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$252 Bids
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/6 Plate Size
Feb 24, 10:00 AM MST
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/6 Plate Size
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$202 Bids
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/6 Plate Size
Feb 24, 10:00 AM MST
Daguerreotype Photograph 1/6 Plate Size
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$352 Bids
(3) FOLK ART FOTOESCULTURA PORTRAITS, MEXICO
Feb 24, 10:00 AM CST
(3) FOLK ART FOTOESCULTURA PORTRAITS, MEXICO
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $200- $400
$1501 Bid
(4) FOLK ART FOTOESCULTURA PORTRAITS, MEXICO
Feb 24, 10:00 AM CST
(4) FOLK ART FOTOESCULTURA PORTRAITS, MEXICO
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $150- $250
$1001 Bid
(3) FOLK ART FOTOESCULTURA PORTRAITS, MEXICO
Feb 24, 10:00 AM CST
(3) FOLK ART FOTOESCULTURA PORTRAITS, MEXICO
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $150- $250
$1001 Bid
(3) FOLK ART FOTOESCULTURA PORTRAITS, MEXICO
Feb 24, 10:00 AM CST
(3) FOLK ART FOTOESCULTURA PORTRAITS, MEXICO
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $200- $400
$1501 Bid
(4) FOLK ART FOTOESCULTURA PORTRAITS, MEXICO
Feb 24, 10:00 AM CST
(4) FOLK ART FOTOESCULTURA PORTRAITS, MEXICO
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $150- $250
$1001 Bid
(3) FOLK ART FOTOESCULTURA PORTRAITS, MEXICO
Feb 24, 10:00 AM CST
(3) FOLK ART FOTOESCULTURA PORTRAITS, MEXICO
by Austin Auction Gallery
Est: $200- $400
$1501 Bid

Sellers Who Sell Portrait Photography


Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.

Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.

Hindman

Hindman

Connoisseur Online

Connoisseur Online

Finarte

Finarte