The relationship between photography and portraiture is intense, Walter Benjamim already said that the true victim of photography was not landscape painting, but the miniature portrait (Benjamin, 2012, p. 93), and that as early as 1840 , many portrait painters had already dropped the brushes and turned to photographic chemicals, the discovery of the daguerreotype revolutionized fame, the dissemination of great personalities as well as the documentation of autonomous people. What I propose in this brief text is to think of some displacements in the portrait and in the photographic self-portrait throughout the XX and XXI centuries.

And in that sense, why not start with Nadar, famous portrait painter of the late nineteenth and early twentieth, and the self-portrait that produced when he disputed with his brother the patent of the name that gave him fame. Swimming is photographed completely by recording all the angles of your bust and proving your identity. If the portrait was one of the great focuses of the photographer, here it does not seek to exalt his personality or to emphasize the characteristics of the individual, but to prove himself as Nadar, his person and the authorship of his production. Beirando "know yourself" proposed by the oracle of Delphi, stands before the camera and makes a 360-degree turn making a sequence of photos of his whole head to prove that it is himself the Nadar.

Another kind of interesting shift in the picture arises from the human deconstruction characteristic of the postwar period and exploited mainly by surrealist artists and Hebert Bayer is a good example of this. The photographer produces a self portrait where he deconstructs his figure in the most typical surrealist model. As a mass of flesh your arm is cut off and a slice of your body is taken out of the set. The montage is further emphasized by the photographer's gaze that looks at the event with surprise and displacing conventional human visuality.

In fact, the relationship between surrealism and photography was potentially interesting for portraiture and self-portrait, and the relationship between Salvador Dali and photographer Phillip Halsmann was particularly significant. Halsmann produced many of Dali's iconic photographs, in his portfolio are the photomontages of the artist flying and so many other images that have spread throughout the world. In the figure below Halsmann produces an interesting portrait "Dali with one eye" where the artist is represented by the assembly and mirroring of one side of his face, the result is an intriguing image that not only represents the artist but also permeates the whole poetic vision that is found in his works.

As we saw in Bayer, the mounting possibilities are also significant for these shifts in portraiture. Angus McBean, a Welsh photographer and set designer and an enthusiast of surrealism, interacts by assembling in the laboratory the human image with the environment, creating rather unusual photographic portraits that sharpen our curiosity and rethink the problem of reality in the photographic portrait. In "self portrait" his face is placed on a stair step creating an ironic image and rethinking the possibilities and functionalities of the portrait production.

As it could not be the use of mirrors and reflexes also collaborated to the displacement of the portrait and self-portrait in centuries XX and XXI. Ilse Bing, a German photographer who entered the university to study physics and ended up migrating to the course of art history, created in "self-portrait with mirrors" a complex set of mirrors reflecting on two different types of portraits: the frontal portrait and the profile. One front and one diagonal mirror position allow you to photograph two typical portrait poses in one and the same frame.

Finally, in these brief paragraphs I tried to understand how the idea of a displaced photograph accompanied the production and the images of human perception in the portrait and the self-portrait in the photography of the XX and XXI centuries, rethinking the relation between the self and the other, the photographer and the model and the image and the real, bringing up different ways of dealing with the human image in the space of photography.


BARTHES, Rolland. The clear camera: notes on photography. Translation by Júlio Castañon Guimarães. Rio de Janeiro: New Frontier, 1984.

BENJAMIN, Walter. Magic and technique, art and politics: essays on literature and history of culture. Translation by Sergio Paulo Rouanet. São Paulo: brasiliense, 2012.

DUBOIS, Philippe. The photographic act and other essays. Translation by Marina Appenzer. Campinas - SP: Papirus, 1993

FLUSSER, Vilém. Philosophy of the black box. São Paulo: Hucitec, 1985.

HACKING, Juliet. All about photography. Translation by Fabiano Moraes, Fernanda Abreu and Ivo Korytosky. Rio de Janeiro: Sextante, 2012.

KRAUSS, Rosalind. The Photographic. Translation by Anne Marie Davée. São Paulo: Gustave Gili, 2014.

MIBELBECK, Reinhold. Photography in the 20th Century. Translation by Sandra Oliveira. Lisbon: Atelier da Imagem, 1998.


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