The history of art is packed full of portraits. Traditional portraits have been a means to capture a sitter’s personality. For generations, people have commissioned portraits for various reasons from expressing their wealth and power to simply capturing a moment in one’s life. In a time of photography, it becomes easy for people to have an image of themselves, something that wasn’t possible two centuries ago. Contrary to belief, this ease of image does not hinder the growth of traditional portraiture, but has opened up a growing need for the art.
Photography has made it easy to get those moments of one’s life caught in time. Photography, for the most part, rarely captures the true personality of the sitter. The results are often flat and lifeless with poses that are often staged in a “smile for the camera” way. People have programmed themselves for this technology which has become even more apparent with the invention of digital cameras and the sense of instant gratification they can provide.
Traditional portraiture goes beyond what can be provided by a photographic image. Artists now utilize this tool in conjunction with artistic knowledge and interpretation of a sitter and their personality. Every portrait must tell a story about that person and their life past, present and perhaps future. Through live contact between the sitter and the artist, a more intimate narrative can be produced which becomes expressed in the final image.
It is this live relationship between sitter and artist that separates the traditional portrait from the photograph. The extended time allows for a greater interpretation of the sitter’s personality, habits and other nuances that make up the visual presence of a person. The extended time also creates an object that is more precious as the personal involvement in the creative process by both sitter and artist creates an object that is truly personal.