PBS's 'Off Book: The Art of Portrait Photography'

What draws us to portraits? In this video from PBS's 'Off Book,' photographers Matt Hoyle, Bex Finch, Jamie Diamond and Ethan Levitas offer their perspective on portraiture and why it is important to us as human beings. At the core of portrait photography, it is a documention of our existence, but it often surpasses that and becomes art.

We have depicted people for thousands of years, from the pharaohs to the Greeks and Romans to what we now see in present day. In early portraiture, it was often a symbol of status and wealth. Simply by having a portrait made, one was making that statement. When photography came around, the portraits were no longer made as a representation of the subject - they were the reality of the subject. It existed that way for many years, until it moved into photojournalism during the Civil War. In the years that followed the war, people began to use portraits as a means of artistic expression,and the evolution of that approach is what we see today.

What do you think? Who are some of your favorite portrait photographers?

[Via Reddit]

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Photography was no longer the portrayal of a human; it was the reality of a human. There was no interpretation... I would challenge this premise in the strongest terms. A photograph, like a drawing or painting is an image of a thing and not the thing itself. It is completely a human artifact and so is the result of human creation and manipulation. It is not "truth," but rather the product of many creative and artificial decisions. The photographer, the subject and the viewer all collaborate in a prolonged process of interpretation. These ideas have been chewed on by commentators from Plato to Susan Sontag.