BA Phot

I&P: Part 1 - Origins of photographic portraiture

Back - Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3

Project 1, Historic photographic portraiture - Exc 1.1 - Project 1.2 Typologies - Exc 1.2 - Exc 1.3 - Exc 1.4 - Conclusion - Upsum

New online course material - Exc. N1 - Exc. N2 - Exc. N3 - Exc. N4 - Exc. N5 - Exc. N6 - Exc. N7
Spence and Martin portrait analysis - Bate, five elements

Arbus - Bellocq - Bey - Bird - Callahan - Cameron - Campt - Cohen - Evans - Fiskin - Hardman - Höfer - Hoppé - Huebler - Mapplethorpe - Medley - Mertin - Nadar - Sander - Schmid - Zaidi -

interpretation - Reflective Writing - Square Mile - Standard Six - Surface - Typologies

Preamble - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Asg.1 - Asg.2 - Asg.3 - Asg.4 - Asg.5 - C&N - EyV

spellchecked 13Nov

We hold these truths to be self evident.

[28Jul20] I noted the following quotes throughout C&N and I'll note them again.

At OCA we believe that your position or viewpoint is absolutely as valuable as the position of any author that you read; the only difference is that you probably won’t have fully discovered, or at least articulated, it yet. Your viewpoint is the source of your imagination and ideas but it can be quite a long journey to bring it into the light. Bloomfield, 2017 p.101

And from Sue Sontag ,

photographs do not seem strongly bound by the intention of the photographer Sontag, On Photography, quoted in La Grange (2005) p.37

And Evelyn Waugh on the subject of degrees from  Brideshead Revisited, in a post from The Evelyn Waugh Society

I wonder if Brideshead Revisited offers a clue to the origins of this mystery. When Charles Ryder arrives at the university, he is firmly advised by his cousin Jasper: ‘You want either a first or a fourth. There is no value in anything between. Time spent on a good second is time thrown away.’ If Waugh did get a third, as Dr Thomas suggests, perhaps he didn’t want anyone to know. Manley, 2018 - The Evelyn Waugh Society


[2Oct20] I started working my way through the I&P course extract in July while wrapping up C&N. My official start date for I&P is 1st October and so I now need to learn about the new online course presentation system, check the course material for any differences and fill in any blanks.
[6Oct] Preamble up-to-date with new exercises.

Until we get to the end of Part. 1, p.x will refer to the old 2015 course extract and Np.y will refer to the new online course material, see References.

Nadar, Eiffel
Box A
Nadar, Portrait of Gustave Eiffel
image from the course material

There is a Preamble to the course material (cmat).

[p.19, Np.32]
[5Aug20] (I&P p.19) We begin with a portrait of Eiffel by Nadar and an organisation tool. [6Oct] The record-keeping table is not in the new version, but I'll fill it in anyway.

Project Page Started Complete New version complete New page
Historic photographic portraiture 22 6 Aug 20 19 Aug 34
Typologies 25 19 Aug 8 Sep 40
Portraiture and the archive 29 8 Sep 9 Oct 46
Square Mile 15 31 Jul 18 Aug 26
1.1 Historic portrait 24 10 Aug 19 Aug 38
1.2 Background as context 26 20 Aug 3 Sep ✓ ✓ 41
1.3 Portraiture typography 28 12 Oct 23 Oct Note 1 45
1.4 Archival intervention 34 11 Oct 23 Oct Note 2 52
Asg.1 The non-familiar 35 16 Oct 2 Dec   53

1. [23Oct] Exc 1.3 is now a virus image deficit case.
2. [23Oct] Exc 1.4 written, but needs shortening.


[p.21, Np.33]
[6Aug20 (I&P p.21) We begin with Paul Delaroche's 1837 announcement upon seeing a daguerreotype, 'From today, painting is dead !'. It was not, of course, and the cmat goes on to say that the relatively recent development of digital imaging didn't kill the old analogue processes either.

While analogue is rising again as a minority interest, it is true to say that digital killed Kodak, Polaroid and many other companies large and small and changed the nature, practices and processes of still imagery.

In his essay Ectoplasm: Photography on the Digital Age (1999, pp.9-23) Geoffrey Bachen casts doubt on the Delaroche quote, saying that there is 'no substantial evidence' for it having been said and pointing out that Delaroche was an early and strong supporter of the use of photography as an aid in painting.

On the coexistence and synergy of painting and photography, Peter Galassi (1981, p.12) declares that,

photography was not a bastard child left by science on the doorstep of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition Galassi, 1981, p.12

Throughout this degree so far I have been interested in the machinations over the question of 'is photography art?'. It is, of course, because the venal art establishment saw a marketing opportunity and declared it to be so by displaying, marketing and auctioning it in a more-or-less equivalent footing with other art forms. Nevertheless, the ebb and flow of recognition prior to that is fascinating, see Is it art? (Blackburn, 2020)

The two main strands in the early development of photography were landscape and portraits, the latter especially encouraged by the development of the visiting card (Marien, p.60).

And that (early portraiture) is where Part 1 of course begins, then the 'typological work of
Emil Otto Hoppé and August Sander' (I&P p.21) and finally contemporary use of archive portraiture.

Project 1.1 Historic photographic portraiture

Nadar, Laboulaye
Box B
Nadar, Édouard-René Laboulaye, c. 1874-78
image from the course material

[6Aug] (I&P p.22) This opens with a quote from John Tagg (presumably his 1988 book of essays, bearing in mind I don't have the course material yet — it's on my watch list but currently £33.85 s/h on Amazon). It is illustrated by another Nadar portrait, Laboulaye, fig. B1. [The Nadar does not appear in the online edition.]

The portrait is a sign whose purpose is both the description of an individual and the inscription of social identity. Tagg, 1988, p.37

I take that to mean that a portrait should demonstrate to the viewer something of the subject's inner character and outward status. Readers are referred to the Sue Sontag quote at the top of the page — that depends to some extent on the viewer.

[6Nov] Note that Tagg (p.37) goes on to say that the (historic) portrait 'is also a commodity, a luxury, an adornment, ownership of which itself confers status'. I found a reasonably-priced copy.

The cmat notes that early portraits only feature one social class, society's elite. It is also worth mentioning that because of the technical constraints of emulsion insensitivity and consequential long exposure times, portraits were not a very accurate image of the individual who had to be constrained to prevent subject movement.

So however accurately (or otherwise) early portraiture represents its subjects, it is important to remember that it is only doing so for a small unrepresentative faction of that society.

Box C
Anatol Josepho
demonstrating the Photomaton
image from

That recorded history is partial and selective is self-evident ('history is written by the victors', as Churchill famously didn't say (Speake, 2015) , but it applies to socio-economics as well as to the battlefield). As the 'lower classes', most non-whites and most women are excluded from written history, so photography tends to be partial.
Readers may remember Part 5 of C&N where we looked at Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunye who concluded that African-American women were under-represented in photography and created their entirely spurious Fae Richards Photo Archive, to fill the void, documenting a fictional Hollywood star.

The cmat describes one device that made a difference in this regard. Anatol Marco Josepho's invention in 1926 of the Photomaton (the first practical device, although there were earlier patents), an automated photo-booth that significantly reduced the cost of personal portraits and thus made this status symbol far more widely available.

Julia Margaret Cameron
b: 1815 Calcutta /
d: Ceylon 1879
V&A - Wikipedia

[p.23, Np.35]
The first example of early portraitists to be explored is Julia Margaret Cameron. Her two main subjects were portraits of the famous (known through social contacts) and religious. / theatrical tableaux. Much of Cameron's work was done at her home on the Isle of Wight.
Nicky Bird
b: ?
Nicky Bird (whom we met on C&N with her project Question for Seller, recycling vernacular photographs) undertook a project at Cameron's former IofW home, Dimbola Lodge. In Tracing Echoes, Bird sought descendants of Cameron's local subjects and photographed them in similar settings, see fig. D1. This created what the cmat describes as,

part-archaeological and part-genealogical, attempting to create a dialogue with the past and explore the different conditions surrounding ‘then’ and ‘now’. Tracing Echoes proposes another way to view Cameron’s collection, as it combines facts with speculation. It is not a conventional way of adding to the Cameron archive, but it has now become inextricably linked with it. I&P p.24
Tracing Echoes, 2001
© Nicky Bird
Box D
Tracing Echoes, 2001
© Nicky Bird
image from the course material

The cmat provides a link to Bird's work. My personal view is that I have yet to encounter a Nicky Bird project that engages me intellectually or æsthetically, although her work is technically competent.

Emil Otto Hoppé
b: 1878 Munich / d: 1972
Website - Wikipedia

[9Aug] Next Emil Otto Hoppé. I had never heard of Hoppé and indeed the world forgot him for many years. He was a renowned portraitist in his time, rated highly by Cecil Beaton but his archive was bought by the Mansell Collection in 1954 and, according to the cmat, disregarded because it was indexed 'by subject matter rather than author' (I&P p.24) but his reputation was restored in the 1990s through the work of Graham Howe.
We are recommended to read Occam’s Razor by Bill Jay, Paso Robles, CA: Nazraeli Press (1994) for a short essay on Hoppé (ibid) but s/h copies are very expensive. There is an essay on Hoppé on the late Bill Jay's website which may, or may not, be the same one. Link
Box E
Amazon search, 7 Oct 20
[7Oct and I managed to find a copy of Jay's Occam’s Razor for £15 this morning. The remaining copies were selling for £753 hardback, paperback from £290, see fig. E1.]

Here are some portraits by Hoppé. He also travelled extensively and made a point of photographing working people and so consideration of his archives as as typologist is likely.

[7Oct] The full online course text references include Hoppé's 100,000 exposures (1945) and I found a reasonably-priced copy on ebay. It reads very well and I will write up some notes on it in due course. The list of kit he took on foreign trips is remarkable.

He also describes how he achieves the defocussed effect especially noticeable in the Einstein portrait, fig. F2. I'll add that.

Hoppe Pound 1920 Hoppe Einstein 1921 Hoppe Milne 1921
Box F
1. Ezra Pound, 1920
2. Einstein, 1921
3. AA Milne, date?
© the estate of Emil Otto Hoppe
images from Wikipedia,,

Box G
Sarah, Lawrence High School,
Lawrence, Massachusetts
, 2005
© Dawoud Bey
image from Bay's On photographing
people and communities

Exercise 1.1

is shown on another page.

Select one portrait to really study in depth. Write a maximum of 500 words about this portrait, but don’t merely ‘describe’ what you see. The idea behind this exercise is to encourage you to be more reflective in your written work (see Introduction), which means trying to elaborate upon the feelings and emotions generated whilst viewing an image. I&P p.24

[p.24, Np.38]
There is some extra material in the online version, suggestions for how to break down the analysis, developed by Jo Spence and Rosy Martin. That's on the exercise page.


[6Nov] The portrait was one of the principal early genres (the others, I guess, being landscape, architecture and still life - things that didn't move a lot). Photographic portraits were, at first (and as painted portraits remain) the preserve of the well-off but gradually became generally available. Opinions differ on what (if anything) portraits reveal of the subject (see Preamble).
Selfie culture and social media, not yet addressed in the course, take the ubiquity of the portrait to a new level.

I&P Part 1 References

Batchen, G. (1999) Ectoplasm: Photography on the Digital Age, in Squiers, C. (ed.) (1999) OverExposed. NY: The New Press.

Bate, D. (2016) Photography, the key concepts. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Bey, D. (2019) On photographing people and communities. NY: Aperture.

Blackburn, N. (2020) Is it Art? [online]. Available from [Accessed 6 August 2020].

Bloomfield, R (2017) Expressing your vision [EyV]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Boothroyd, S (2017) Context and narrative [C&N]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Boothroyd, S. and Roberts, K. (2015) Identity and place [I&P]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts. Course extract PDF

Boothroyd, S. and Roberts, K. (2019) Identity and place [I&P]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts. New online teaching version

Carroll, H (2018) Photographers on photography. London: Laurence King Publishing.

Galassi, P. (1981) Before Photography. NY: MoMA.

Hoppé, E.O. (1945) Hundred Thousand Exposures: The Success of a Photographer. London: Focal Press

Hughes, G (2007) Game Face: Douglas Huebler and the Voiding of Photographic Portraiture. Art Journal Vol. 66, No. 4 (Winter, 2007), pp. 52-69.

La Grange, A. (2005) Basic critical theory for photographers. Burlington, MA: Focal Press. (n.d.) typology [online]. Available from [Accessed 19 August 2020].

Manley, J (2018) Correspondence in Spectator re Waugh’s Oxford “Degree” [online]. Available from [Accessed 28 July 2020].

Marien, M.W. (2012) 100 Ideas that changed photography. London: Laurence King Publishing.

Papageorge, T (1975) The Snapshot. Aperture. Vol. 19 No.4, pages 24-27.

Sontag, S. (1982) Barthes: Selected Writings. London: Fontana.

Speake, J. (ed.) (2015) Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs . (6th ed.) Oxford: OUP.

Tagg, J. (1988) Burden of Representation (Essays on Photographies and Histories). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Waguespack, C. (2017) Posh and Tawdry: Inventing and Rethinking E.J. Bellocq’s Storyville Portraits [online]. Available from [Accessed 30 September 2020].

Wolf, S. (2019) Photo Work: forty photographers on process and practice. New York: Aperture Foundation

Zaidi, T. (2020) The Sapeurs of Brazzaville [online]. Available from [Accessed 15 September 2020].

The full OCA I&P references are specified at the end of the course material and are repeated here for ease of access.

Page created 28-Jul-2020 | Page updated 18-Sep-2021