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In Focus: The Portrait

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.

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.

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By Claire O'Neill

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