Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Some Considerations on the Subject of Profile Portraits - TTT

Twice Told Tuesday features a photography related article reprinted from
collection of old photography books, magazines, and newspapers.

Some Considerations on the Subject of Profile Portraits
December 1, 1916

Profile portraits form the subject of a short article in "The Professional Photographer," from which we extract the following. The author observes, in commencing, that every sitter will not make a profile portrait. Very few have features so finely chiselled and so well proportioned that they will stand the test of being shown up in outline.

Carefully posed, profile portraits make charming pictures, but one must not forget that they lose their interest sooner than the poses which show the eyes and mouth.

There must be something especially attractive in the profile view. From an artistic standpoint it undoubtedly gives plenty of scope to the operator. Broader masses of light and shade can be secured than in the usual front view. There is more hair shown, and this forms a valuable shadow against which the half-tone of the face tells very effectively. Then, if a hat is worn, the broadside view of the brim gives a graceful sweeping line.

But the chief attraction of the profile lies in the fact that it awakens curiosity. When one looks at the profile of a beautiful woman, or of a man with a strong and interesting personality, one immediately wants to get a glimpse of the full face. A more satisfying view is wanted, and there is a feeling that half the beauty and half the character are concealed.

This is why the profile generally fails to satisfy as a likeness. It is more limited in expression than a full-face or three-quarter view. There is not much chance of revealing character by the expression of the eyes and mouth. Moreover, friends are apt to be more familiar with the features of a face as seen from the front than from the side.

When a sitter, whose face is not especially adapted for it, is really anxious to have a profile portrait, slight defects in the outline may be hidden by a little artful dodging in arranging the pose. For instance, a receding chin is no drawback if it is resting on the hand. Hair can be arranged to hide or subdue a receding forehead.

In all profile views the most important point is to see that the direction of the eyes is in keeping the pose of the head. The head may be titled, it may be perfectly straight, or it may be lowered. In any of these poses the eyes must look in the same direction as the face, otherwise some unusual or undesirable feeling will be expressed. This, of course, may be very useful when photographing actors and actresses as different characters, but it is quite unsuited to ordinary portraiture where natural likeness is aimed at.

Note: Photographs, from the private collection of the footnoteMaven, have been added to illustrate the article.


Unknown. “Some Considerations on the Subject of Profile Portraits.” The Amateur Photographer's Weekly, December 1, 1916, 155.


Unknown Young Woman. Photograph (Cabinet Card). Unknown. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2007.

Unknown Bearded Man. Photograph (Cabinet Card). 1884. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2007.


Blogger Lidian said...

I always enjoy these articles - and I love the accompanying photos.

And thank you for your kind comment on the Electric Oil post, BTW -

June 18, 2008 at 12:33 PM  

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