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James Allan Trew


What can you really tell about a person from their portrait?

The traditional portrait captures a split-second moment of time in a situation that can make the subject feel awkward and uneasy (i.e. having a camera pointed at them by a stranger). The photographer can also manipulate the situation at the time of acquisition through their communication with the subject in order to produce a desired outcome. Therefore, questions should be asked as to whether the subject is being represented fairly and accurately. In this case, are we not seeing a reflection of the personality of the photographer, rather than that of the subject?

Even though there are no people present in these photographs, there is arguably more information available to the viewer regarding the subject’s personality; more so in fact, than physiognomy can offer. Is it not more revealing to represent the subject through an object that has been personalised by them in some way?

As featured in the BJP

'A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. They are all accurate. None of them is the truth.' Richard Avedon.


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