Storey Wilkins Photography
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What are Portraits Anyway?

What is a Portrait Anyway?

Watch this 4 minute video where I explain a brief history of the importance of portraits, why you should have one, and why I should create it for you.

No time to watch? Catch the transcript here...


What is a portrait?

So, what is a portrait anyway? Hi. I’m Storey Wilkins, a wedding and family portrait photographer here in Toronto. I have 20 years of experience photographing love, and I would love to tell your story.

Should it hang on my wall?

So, I often get asked, “Do I really want my portrait hanging on my wall? Who is it going to benefit?” Well a great portrait is going to benefit you and it’s going to benefit your loved ones. There’s a lot of emotional and psychological benefits of having a great photograph of having photographs of you and your loved ones out there ready to be seen when you walk by them everyday.

The Tate helps us with the art term and history of portraits

But it begs the question. What traditionally is a portrait, and what is the history of it? There is a great a description of this on the Tate Gallery website (that you should definitely check out) but I’ll summarize it here. A portrait is a representation of a particular person whereas a self-portrait (or even a selfie in today’s language) is a portrait of the artist by the artist. So we are assuming here that you’re not looking for a selfie and that you’re ready to be photographed beautifully by someone else.

Portraits go back over 5000 years

Portraiture is a really old art form going back to Ancient Egypt, flourishing from 5000 years ago. Before the invention of photography, a painted, sculpted or drawn portrait was the only way to record the appearance of someone. But portraits have always been more than just a record. They have been used to show power, importance, virtue, beauty, wealth, taste, learning or other qualities of the sitter.

Should it need be flattering?

Portraits have almost always been flattering, but there have been painters out there who refuse to flatter, such as William Hogarth. They tended to find their work rejected! So, as your photographer, I want to make sure that you like the way you look in these photographs. I do not want my work to be rejected!! Notable exceptions in the art world are Goya, for example, whose bluntly truthful portraits of the Spanish Royal Family seemed to go over well back in the day.

Commissioned versus created

Among leading contemporary portrait artists that paint on commission, it seems the painted portrait is becoming increasingly rare and instead a lot of artists paint their friends and lovers in whatever way they please. Think back to a modern age example of that. With Picasso, most of his pictures of women, even if they were bizarre, could be identified as portraits of his lovers.

Photography has made portraiture more affordable

So around the same time as Picasso, photography became the most important medium of traditional portraiture, bringing what was formally an expensive luxury into a product that was affordable for almost everyone.

Looking for a Toronto family portrait photographer?

In Toronto these days, you can go to the bargain basement department store and have your family photographed. However, I suggest you hire a commissioned freelance photographer like myself. There are so many talented ones in our city. Also, since around the 1990's a lot of artists have used video to create living portraits, also a really cool way to go. There are now so many ways to capture not just your likeness, but your essence.

Creative self-portraits inspire professional portraits

So portrait painting continues to advance creatively, and we see it in really cool self-portraits of artists, whether it’s a straight up representation or whether it’s something that is more abstract or symbolic, depictions of artists can be really cool. Our selfies often fall short of that which is why you should consider hiring a professional photographer with deep strengths to photograph you. The quality will be better and the creativity will probably be enhanced because there’s more that we can do for you.

Group portraits

Group portraits are a great way to go and not just of you and your immediate family but also of you and your extended family. I love going to photograph three, sometimes four, generations of families where we see the grandparents and great grandparents interacting with the baby, and interacting with the aunts uncles and cousins. You can turn your family portrait into a family reunion. A multi-purpose event!

Book your Toronto session today

So, feel free to reach out. I’ll give you more information and help you book a session. In the meantime, let’s just celebrate not only the love of life but the love of photography as well. Have a great day!