Self image: basic materials and techniques (4)
life through a lens
by Madame Yevonde
Since photography became available to artists in the mid 19th century it has played a large part underpinning the development of work created in other media as well as establishing itself as an art form in its own right. Painters and sculptors can work from photographs instead of from life. Photographs can be copied, projected or traced.
The invention of the photographic portrait meant that a painted or sculpted portrait no longer needed to confirm a definitive likeness and as a result artists were more able to use these media to explore other ways of making portraits.
Self-portraits can be made with a camera using a shutter release on a cable, allowing the artist to set up the camera, pose and take the photograph from some distance away. Some artists like to disguise the shutter release button by concealing it behind folded arms or behind their back to confuse the viewer into wondering how they managed to take the photograph. Others have it blatantly in full view leaving no doubt that they are the creator of the work.
by Lewis Morley
Cameras often have a timer switch setting, allowing the artist to set it, move into position and pose before it clicks. This method can sometimes be difficult to control and the element of spontaneity can add something unexpected.
It is also possible to photograph yourself by holding the camera at arms length. By relying on guesswork there is uncertainty about what is in focus and the type of composition that will result.
These artists are holding negatives:
Some artists ask someone else to take the photograph to their instructions and still consider this to be a self-portrait. This borders on a more 'conceptual' approach to what a self-portrait actually is and follows the theory that even though the artist may not have created the work with their own hand this is not as important as the ideas contained within the work.
Early nineteenth century photography embraced many new forms of printing in sepia tone, black and white and colour.
In 1960, the Whitechapel Art Gallery was the first major art gallery in London to host a photographic exhibition. This solo show was by Ida Kar.
Self-portraits by Bob Collins, show us his camera, a Rolleiflex. Interestingly we can also view the whole of the contact sheet and study which view that he has taken of himself that we consider tells us most about him.
If you look closely, you'll see him smile, indoors, with and without props.
Other artists had fun manipulating the printing of their photographs in the darkroom
Do, draw and make!
Do, draw and make!
From building dens to food faces – enjoy our Playful Portraits activities and find out about some brilliant people!
Activities for children and families inspired by three healthcare heroes from our Collection.
Downloadable and web based resources to support learning at home linked to art, history, citizenship and literacy.
- Robert Adamson (NPG P6(181))
- David Octavius Hill (NPG P6(1))
- Oliver François Xavier Sarony (NPG P613)
- Lewis Carroll (NPG P7(26))
- David Wilkie Wynfield (NPG P87)
- Cecil Beaton (NPG P219)
- Madame Yevonde (NPG P620)
- Yousuf Karsh (NPG P247)
- Olive Edis (NPG x45535)
- Ida Kar (NPG x88604)
- Lewis Morley (NPG x38902)
- Ida Kar (NPG x88605)
- Ida Kar (NPG x88606)
- Ida Kar (NPG x88607)
- Bob Collins (NPG x126181)
- Bob Collins (NPG x126182)
- Bob Collins (NPG x126183)
- Madame Yevonde (NPG x17998)
- Chris Garnham (NPG x38123)