Image the Portrait – Opening Questions

“Portraits are about identity: passport, mug-shots, celebrity and anthropological photos all function by the recognition of the person – particularly their face. Could you still identify someone visually if you didn’t show their face? Or could you identify someone visually merely by showing the place they live and the traces they leave? If regular signs of a person’s identity (e.g. the type of clothes they wear) are changed, what happens to your interpretation of them?” (Enoch, R; 2017)

Could you still identify someone visually if you didn’t show their face? There are some people whom I would recognise by their height, build and outline. However, this is when I seen them in real life as three-dimensional beings. Their body language, mannerism and movement would also give them away. I doubt that this would be the same if I saw them in a photograph without their face. There are certain pieces of clothing, environment, possessions and vehicles that I would recognise and associate with them. My answer is perhaps I would recognise them, if they were presented in a photo in a manner that reflects their lifestyle.

Could you identify someone visually merely by showing the place they live or the traces they leave? I would perhaps be able to do this if I were presented with a series of photos of a friend or family member. If a single image showed their home, then yes, but as we get down to smaller identifiers, then it would be less likely without a series. The more subtle the connection is the harder it would be. What fun it would be to create a suspense mystery on this theme.

Sadly, I think I could answer this question better about certain celebrities. With the Queen, the pope, and certain Formula One Drivers or footballers the denotation could have more obvious and person specific meaning, thus making the person more easily identifiable.

If regular signs of a person’s identity (e.g. the type of clothes they wear) are changed, what happens to your interpretation of them? If the Queen were to don a Morrisons uniform and sell me cheese from behind the deli I would still recognise her (I would think that Prince Harry has got her involved in a charity stunt). If certain female friends wore a dress I would consider that they were going to fancy dress, a funeral or court. There have been times recently when I have recognised the face of people in town, and have had to pause to consider where I know them from. They have been physically out of context, and this can also be confusing.

 

References

Enoch, R; 2017; Foundations in Photography; Barnsley; Open College of the Arts; Online at https://www.oca.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/CS_FPFIP_020217_RED.pdf (accessed on 13/09/2017)

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