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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> Discussion: when is a portrait not a portrait
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06/10/2019 12:11:06 PM · #1
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/2000-2999/2854/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1237114.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/2000-2999/2854/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1237114.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

I wrote this as notes for my Outdoor Portrait entry, but thought it merited a wider discussion. I am in no way upset at the score, as I totally expected to get the brown on this one. But as we have traditionally thought of DPC as a place to "learn", I seized upon a teaching moment. Here's what I wrote:

I entered this image knowing full well it would score poorly. I entered it because I want to have a creative and constructive discussion about "portraits" - what and what doesn't constitute one.

On DPC, they tend to be narrowly defined to require "faces". There may be other reasons why this particular image received a low score, but I'm pretty certain it was mostly because it does not show her face.

Portraiture is an umbrella term: there are classic portraits, studio portraits, candid portraits, outdoor portraits, environmental portraits, etc., etc. But there is no REQUIREMENT for there to be a face for it to be a portrait.

Would all of these NatGeo shots NOT be considered a portrait?

Or consider the photography of Patty Maher.

Or this faceless portrait collection on Pinterest.

Or this article on Expert Photography or this one on Bethadilly.

Let's discuss and expand our vision and grow as photographers!
06/10/2019 12:48:19 PM · #2
Well, we did recently have a "portraits without faces" challenge, so I would have thought minds would be a little more open on this subject.
06/10/2019 12:52:01 PM · #3
I love the work of Patty Maher, incredible work with colors, very consistent theme.
06/10/2019 12:55:23 PM · #4
I didn't vote on this challenge, but a couple of other things that could have hurt it:
-some may have felt it was more about the landscape than the person.
-some may have felt that without a face this didn't do anything to tell us about this person other than she has a shapely butt.
06/11/2019 04:43:26 PM · #5
I have not studied art formally, but I'm thinking that Portraits and Faceless Portraits are two different challenges, each presenting their own attraction.
When I go to a Portrait show or gallery I see faces. I see them alone, I see them in context, but I come away remembering the faces.
Faceless Portraits ... learning about the subject but without seeing their face..... is very different. And interesting, as your links point out.

06/11/2019 05:14:51 PM · #6
I agree with @PennyStreet, the standard definition of a portrait says that a face should feature prominently in it. Yes, one can stipulate a restriction to express personality without showing the face (i.e. "Faceless portraits"), I am not saying it is impossible, but without such handicap it is hard to expect that a photo without a face would do well in a general portrait competition. Sort of like in an open runners competition we expect to see able-bodied athletes... but in Paralympics - it is a different story.
06/11/2019 08:02:14 PM · #7
Originally posted by LevT:

I agree with @PennyStreet, the standard definition of a portrait says that a face should feature prominently ...

"Standard definition" #2 (emphasis added):
Originally posted by Wiktionary:


Noun (figuratively) An accurate depiction of a person, a mood, etc. [for example:]

The author painted a good portrait of urban life in New York in his latest book.


I figure if someone goes to the trouble of entering something in a "portrait" challenge the image somehow relates to one of the meanings of the word "portrait" even if I can't make the connection immediately, perhaps requiring some moments of contemplation before clicking on a number.

That's one reason OOBies or "shoehorns" are often more interesting than twenty "standard" interpretations.
06/11/2019 08:25:26 PM · #8
' . substr('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/user_id/1031.gif', strrpos('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/user_id/1031.gif', '/') + 1) . ' GeneralE ...so if we accept that figurative definition, what wouldn't be a portrait then? Any image arguably is an accurate depiction of something (the light entering the lens and the actions of the photographer, for example) )). It can well be more interesting that a straight-on portrait, of course, but what' the point of declaring a theme, we can just as well make all challenges free studies.

Perhaps, the source of the disagreement comes from the fact that I wasn't talking about any possible interpretation of the word 'portrait' (there are indeed many), but about definition of portrait as an accepted artistic genre.

Message edited by author 2019-06-11 20:33:19.
06/11/2019 08:41:41 PM · #9
Well, I think the *challenge* is to "creatively" interpret the topic, not to make the best copy of La Gioconda ... if you think an image doesn't do that to your satisfaction feel free to give it a low vote.

06/12/2019 10:11:16 AM · #10
The challenge, in my life, is to recognize & follow the rules of whatever it is I'm trying to learn for as long as it takes to learn it without letting the rules control the experience.

Sometimes it seems the rules is all there is. That's how portrait photography seems to me. Follow the rules or be a failure. Those who are content with the rules will enforce the rules. This just motivates me away from the subject. I leave it to those who enjoy it.
06/12/2019 11:26:05 AM · #11
This is an artistic site and playing strictly by the "rules" inhibits artistic possibilities. I have nothing against creatively reacting to a challenge topic.
So I agree that there is no "rule" to what a portrait is and you can very well call a faceless portrait a type of portrait if you want.
But I still believe the art world out there expects to see faces when they look at portraits. It's not really by rule but by history. And I think that if any art museum were to have a Faceless Portrait exhibition, they would describe it as such.
I was reacting to ' . substr('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/user_id/96751.gif', strrpos('https://www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/user_id/96751.gif', '/') + 1) . ' tanguera\'s request for discussion. Certainly everyone's opinion doesn't have to be the same as mine.
06/12/2019 12:06:47 PM · #12
Faceless Portrait
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