The portrait workshop is intended to understand the practice of portraiture through the use of photography, grounding it first on the previous history of the cultural practice of portraiture with other mediums, most importantly painting, from which photography borrows certain techniques (like posing and the relationship with sitter and background) since the beginning of its invention in the early 19th century.
After visiting briefly and with intent, certain examples of 16th and 17th century Flemish and Spanish painters, we embark on a voyage though the history of photography from its very beginnings, Hippolyte Bayard´s self-portrait as a drowning man and then the very still and frozen portraits of 19th century daguerreotype studios in Paris, London and Boston, jumping from the spectacular portraits of artists and writers done by Nadar in Paris to the very personal and intimate portraits of friends and family done by Julia Margaret Cameron in The Isle of Wight or Roger Fenton’s military portraits in Crimea.
From then on is 20th century, with the technological advancements, making the camera more agile and portable, we will study with close attention the essential work of August Sander to the almost perfect ideas and portraiture studies of Rineke Dijkstra, and so many in between, from Penn to Avedon and then to Leibovitz. It should be and exciting ride to understand the changes in the conception of what is a portrait, and the important role that photography has with the inherent ability to describe and give an illusion of reality.
Most probably there is no medium like photography to describe the likeness of a person and with it the beautiful mirage that behind that surface we see represented, lies certainties within our sight of that person’s personality, state of mind and psychological depth. One of our goals is to understand this in order to create compelling portraits.
There will be readings and accompanying essays to each of the presentations which will be given to the students after each class, also we will have weekly portraiture assignments to put in practice the theory given, followed by critiques and conversations between teacher and students afterwards hoping to learn as much as we can from each other portraiture experiences along the way.