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With the invention of the daguerreotype and the advancements of photography thereafter, portraiture became accessible to all who desired to have their likeness preserved, in contrast to earlier times when only the upper classes could afford to commission a painted portrait. The photographs in this selection were taken for many different purposes. There are studio portraits, documentary portraits, and candid portraits---each capturing some uniquely personal aspect of the sitter, whether or not we know who they are.
John Frank Keith
Two Girls on a Stoop, Kensington, Philadelphia
Amateur photographer John Frank Keith spent every weekend making photographs. His informal archive is more than a catalog of individuals; it is an intimate portrait of his neighborhood.
Vannerson's portraits of Native Americans were taken during the 1850s when members of many tribes were invited by the U.S. government to travel to Washington, D.C., to negotiate treaties. These photographs documented the individuals but were also sold for profit to satisfy the public's curiosity about Native Americans.
Little Orphan Annie in a Pittsburgh Institution
Hine used his photography in the service of social reform. This portrait, like the rest of his work of the poor and underpriviliged.
This occupational portrait whimsically depicts an editor nearly overcome by the tools of his trade.
Jean Walker Simpson
In this formal portrait, Steichen depicts Jean Walker Simpson, the daughter of one of his patrons, by merging fashion photography with the tradition of Renaissance portraiture.
Mathew Brady Studio
Brady photographed and collected portraits of well-known Americans to create a "National Gallery of Representative Americans." Being photographed in the style that Brady might have used for President Lincoln ensured the subject of membership in a larger historical enterprise.
Three Friends in a Field
With the appearance of George Eastman's hand-held camera in 1888, everyone had the means to document his or her daily life and daily surroundings. The photographer of this playful image of three friends enjoying a sunny day is unidentified.