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On the advantages and difficulties of group portraits

Untitled (Pope John Paul II)

Piotr Uklański, Untitled (Pope John Paul II), 2004

The Pencil of Nature is considered to be the first (or the second) photobook in history. It was published in instalments between 1842 and 1846. The book was written by Talbot to explain this new art form that he had invented. Here is an excerpt from Part 3:

Portraits of living persons and groups of figures form one of the most attractive subjects of photography (…). Groups of figures take no longer time to obtain than single figures would require, since the Camera depicts them all at once, however numerous they may be: but at present we cannot well succeed in this branch of the art without some previous concert and arrangement. If we proceed to the City, and attempt to take a picture of the moving multitude, we fail, for in a small fraction of a second they change their positions so much, as to destroy the distinctness of the representation. But when a group of persons has been artistically arranged, and trained by a little practice to maintain an absolute immobility for a few seconds of time, very delightful pictures are easily obtained.

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