The Photographic Portrait: Sight, Identity and Modernity

”I have for some years been studying the inception of the photograph, in order to find out what kind of expectations and desires its inventors and early users had. During this year as a Mejan Resident, I will continue my research of the specificity of the photographic image in a project taking its starting-point in the early photo-studio. The mid 18-hundreds was the era of "the rising of the self", and the photograph became a tool to express an increased sense of individuality. To be photographed was to be seen, and one needed to be aware of what image one reflected. The photograph creates a new relation to oneself, to one’s self-consciousness, and the image of oneself becomes a support of identity.

The photo-studio is, as it emerges soon after the invention of the photographic technique, a site were the new way of perceiving the world is directed towards the self. It became a site for power, with the camera as a tool to gain knowledge and create norms. At the same time the technique was perceived as something almost supernatural and there were many folkloristic beliefs and superstitions around the notion of having one’s photograph taken. My current project aims to map these shifting conceptions that were at play in the early photographic studio and investigate how this relates to the concept of self-images today.”

Beata_FranssonWork in progress (image from photo studio, Ekenäs Museum Centre, EKTA) c-print
© Beata Fransson