J. Tomas Lopez: Portraits able to challenge views, uncover truths

February 11, 2023 / 2:36 PM
Sharjah24: Renowned fine arts photographer and academician J. Tomas Lopez captivated the audience during the seventh edition of the International Photography Festival ‘Xposure’ on Friday with his deep insights on portrait images.
In his session titled ‘The Portrait: Who, What, When, Where and Why,’ Lopez delved into the intricacies of portraiture as a genre in art and explored the questions, originally formulated by Harold Lasswell in the 1940s. 

“The ‘why’ of a portrait is the most powerful question that we often let slide, it is just as important as the who, what, when, and where. It reveals the intention and the message behind the image,” said Lopez, professor and Cooper Fellow in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Miami.

“Portraiture is not just a representation of the person being depicted, but a reflection of the society and culture that surrounds them. Portraits have the power to challenge our perspectives, evoke emotions, and uncover deeper truths about human nature,” he added.

The seminar emphasised the power and influence of portraiture as a tool to convey the qualities and aspects of the subject, be it their wealth, taste, or beauty. Lopez highlighted the evolution of portraiture from being an expression of vanity and ego in the 19th century to a more complex representation of the human condition in the 20th century. 

"Portraiture has always been a means of telling a story, whether it's the story of a person's life, their accomplishments, or their character. As photographers, it's important to understand the power we hold in creating these stories through our images. Today, over 90% of all photos are taken with a smartphone and over 60% of all photos are portraits or images of people. Portraits have come a long way since the 19th century and continue to evolve in the digital age,” he explained. 

The seminar discussed various famous portraits, including the Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt's self-portrait, and portraits of Sarah Bernhardt, Sir John Herschel, and Victor Hugo. Lopez underscored the significance of these portraits, not only for their technical merit but also for the stories and meanings they convey. “The technical aspects of taking a portrait are important, but it's the emotional connection that makes a portrait truly impactful,” he said.

Lopez also discussed the impact of photography on portraiture, especially in the second half of the 20th century. He talked about how portraiture became accessible to a wider audience, and how the rise of celebrities, writers, philosophers and political figures further fueled the demand for portraits. “The purpose of a portrait has evolved over time, from simply capturing a likeness to exploring the complexities of the human condition. The best portraits challenge us to consider the questions in a deeper, more meaningful way.”

The ongoing festival at Expo Center Sharjah will continue to provide a platform for photographers and photography enthusiasts to learn and explore the art and science of photography until February 15.
February 11, 2023 / 2:36 PM

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