Since I remember I was attracted by portraits: It started at early age, me drawing my parents, my sister, my friends. Then, at one point, a father of a neighbour kid offered some portrait drawing sessions. I went. I drew with crayons. I was amazed with the result. I still remember that portrait of his son… and I was 9 years old. White crayon and the little boys face.
Fast forward, I see myself at University, studying great masters of art: Diego Velazquez, Johannes Vermeer. French painters: Gustave Courbet, Jean-François Millet and Honoré Daumier were part of the Social Realism movement. The Impressionists and Post-Impressionists began deconstructing ideas about the nature of portraiture, and painting in general. None were more revolutionary than Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. The post-impressionists broke open traditional portraiture: Henri Matisse, Egon Schiele, Edvard Munch and most famously Pablo Picasso pushed the portrait in different directions at the beginning of the 20th century, focusing on different aspects- line, colour, form, and most importantly psychology. For the first time for many artists, the inner psyche of the sitter was as important, if not moreso, as the likeness in a portrait. And then Man Ray came to the scene. Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein followed.
Portraits have been around since the beginning of time as a means to describe not only physical features but more importantly power and status. Testaments of portraiture as a genre can be seen as early as Ancient Egyptian wall paintings of gods and pharaons. In 1839, a year after the first photo containing a human being was made, photography pioneer Robert Cornelius made the first ever portrait of a human being. The Daily recently published an interesting piece on Cornelius’ story:
On a sunny day in October, Robert Cornelius set up his camera in the back of his father’s gas lamp-importing business on Chestnut Street in Center City, Philadelphia. After removing the lens cap, he sprinted into the frame, where he sat for more than a minute before covering up the lens. The picture he produced that day was the first photographic self-portrait. It is also widely considered the first successful photographic portrait of a human being.
[…] the words written on the back of the self-portrait, in Cornelius’ own hand, said it all: “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.”
I remember one day, still at faculty, I changed brushes for camera (all fault of my friend Rok ;) ). Three years later I held my first exhibition which I titled ‘This Digitalised Objects of Desire’ - all about female portraiture. Portraits on silk, faces of different women looking at you while the colours of RGB lights changes…
For me, when taking a portrait it’s all about the observation. How you react in front of a camera, what kind of connection you build with a person, what’s her/his best angle, it’s what lies within you, what makes you You. At the end … It’s All about You.
Portraits. People. Life in them. Passion, sorrow, love, beauty, fear, anxiety, happiness, … everything. Face is a map of emotions. That’s why I am never bored to take a portrait. Ever. :)
Ps. This drawing made a friend of mine, 5 years old Izabela, who loves my cat Ginger dearly. I don’t have slightest idea who is the creature on top of a Ginger. :) But… this is how you start. ;)