Monday 1 October 2012

Three carte de visite portraits from New Zealand

In New Zealand, it is uncommon to encounter carte de visite portraits of the same person taken about a year apart. Here are three images of the same man which show how the photographer has altered the way he has asked a person to pose in order to reflect his growing maturity. Look at how body language is controlled by the photographer. It shifts from seated shyness to standing authority.

Little analysis has occurred in our photo-history that discusses how 19th century photographers contrasted how their sitters sat or stood. In theatre, we call such arrangements the mise en scène, which describes the situation of a planned event, what the surrounding scenery is and the properties of the encounter. Good photographers limited the material in their studio to props that looked like they could be from a home while also adding sculptural plinths et alia.

Note how the lighting is uniformly from the left, which to my way of thinking suggests a north facing side window rather than a top light. It is obvious that the earliest image of the seated young man is taken at other premises. With the silk bookmark, I wonder whether the book he holds is not a Holy Bible. Certainly, the double ink well suggests that he is a student. From all of his attire it is obvious that he comes from a family of means.

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