Since I remember I was attracted by portraits. It started at an early age: me drawing my parents, my sister, my friends. Then, when i was 9 years old, a father of a neighbour’s kid offered some portrait drawing lessons. I went. I drew with crayons. I still remember that portrait of his son… White crayon and the little boys face.
Fast forward, I’m at University, studying the great masters of art: Diego Velazquez, Johannes Vermeer. French painters: Gustave Courbet, Jean-François Millet and Honoré Daumier, heroes 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. At the beginning of the 20th century, the post-impressionists broke open traditional portraiture. Henri Matisse, Egon Schiele, Edvard Munch and most famously Pablo Picasso pushed the concept of portrait beyond the ordinary: For the first time, the inner psyche of the sitter was as important, if not for Moreso, as the likeness in a portrait. Line, colour, form, and most importantly psychology played the part. In photography, Man Ray emerged. Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein followed.
Portraits have been around since the beginning of time as a means to describe not only an individual’s 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 in university, I switched from using brushes to using a camera (thanks to my friend Rok… today, I thank him). Three years later I held my first exhibition which I titled ‘This Digitalised Objects of Desire’ – all about female portraiture. Portraits on huge silk canvases, showing faces of women looking at the audience, their moods changed by switching RGB lighting.
To me, when taking a portrait, it’s all about observation. How do you react in front of a camera? What kind of connection are you building with a person? What’s her/his best angle? It’s what lies within you, what makes you You … a portrait IS all about You.
The face is a map of emotions: Passion, sorrow, love, beauty, fear, anxiety, happiness,.. life expressing itself. 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 the slightest idea who is the creature on top of Ginger. But… this is how you start. ;-)