What is a photographic portrait? A moment in a life story, or the essence of a life? A portrait of the sitter, or a portrait of the photographer? Unmistakable truth, or staged imposture? And when the portrait in full face is accompanied by a portrait in profile, the subject we see in the picture is perhaps more properly an object? A suspect object of public control, or an interesting object of scientific research?
Often, portraits appear in series. Are these still photographs of individuals, or are they meant to visualize typical features? Features of a period, a social group, an exotic culture, perhaps a race? Are such series descriptive or normative? Does the photographic medium contribute to the canonization of certain groups, and stigmatization of others?
The photographic portrait conveys presence as well as absence. The photographic portrait compels us to ask whether we are still here in our bodies, or perhaps rather there in our pictures. Whatever the answer, the split between me and my picture prompts a reflexivity which is distinctive of Modernity, and that Modernity largely owes to photography.
In the present anthology, taking their starting points in various examples of Norwegian photographic portraiture, a number of scholars discuss the position of photographic portraits between fact and fiction: Trond Bjorli, Marthe T. Fjellestad, Aliona Pazdniakova, Marie Fongaard Seim, Thale Sørlie, Mikkel B. Tin.