Drive-by portraiture illustrates just how far the medium has come. When photography was invented in the early 1800s, cameras were cumbersome and only accessible to a few. But as the years progressed and technology improved, cameras became more widespread — and photography more commercial. In Focus: The Portrait, currently on exhibit at The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, provides a retrospective of the portrait's evolution, from Civil War snapshots to Depression-era photojournalism to modern-day fine art.
President Lincoln stands at the United States Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, near Antietam, in 1862.
Image courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Marchand d'Abat-Jours, 1901.
Eugene Atget, courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum
Newsboy, Mobile, Alabama, 1914.
Lewis Hine, courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum
Werner Siedhoff, Albert Menzel and Haftali Rubinstein, circa 1928
T. Lux Feininger, courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum
Marlene Dietrich, actress and singer, 1932.
Cecil Beaton, courtesy The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's
Bud Fields with his wife Ivy, and his daughter Ellen, Hale County, Alabama, 1936.
Walker Evans, courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum
Georgia O'Keeffe: A portrait.
Alfred Stieglitz, courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust
A Young Girl in Ennis, Ireland, 1954.
Dorothea Lange, courtesy Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland
The Brown Sisters, Cambridge, 1986. Nicholas Nixon)
For full screen, click on the four-cornered arrow icon in the viewer's bottom right.
Oddly enough, the first image in this series, an eerie portrait of Lincoln, resembles the very last image — a 1960s color portrait of trick-or-treaters. Both show three males with vacant stares, standing in the center of the frame. And yet the images are worlds apart. For one thing, the trick-or-treaters are staring straight at the camera. What's more, one boy is wearing flowered pants, which Lincoln would likely find unthinkable.
Between the these two portraits is a diverse, although hardly comprehensive, sampling of the photograph's history. Take a look to get an idea of how far today's little point-and-shoot cameras have come.
The exhibition runs through June 14 at the Getty Center.