Aspect Ratio

They Live By Night: Portraits

In celebration of our new exhibition, ”Reflections: A Brief History of Looking at Ourselves,” we wanted to share a few photographs from one of our favorite collections, the Robert Kniesche Photograph Collection.  Each of the images below shares the same uncommon characteristic. Taking photographs at night without using a camera flash poses many challenges—even with today’s technology. These challenges are only compounded when the subject is a human who can stay still for just a short moment. The Kniesche photos below exhibit a relatively rare use of photography to capture an individual (or three) outside at night using only the ambient light generated by the urban environment.

 

On the block, midnight. Cop in rain. Undated. Robert F. Kniesche. 4x5 inch acetate negative. Kniesche Photograph Collection. PP79.563, MdHS.

On the block, midnight. Cop in rain. Robert F. Kniesche, not dated. Robert Kniesche Photograph Collection. PP79.563, MdHS.

Marsh Market. September 23, 1957. Robert F. Kniesche. Kniesche Photograph Collection. PP79.391, MdHS.

Marsh Market. Robert F. Kniesche, September 23, 1957. Robert Kniesche Photograph Collection. PP79.391, MdHS.

 

This third image also offers the opportunity to question “what is a portrait?”  Does it qualify as a portrait purely because humans are present in the photo? Or do the subjects’ anonymity disqualify this as portraiture? Humans are used as a focal point in the composition, but is the photo truly about them? (Dan Goodrich)

 

Delinquent kids, Walter McCardell. 1956. Robert F. Kniesche. Kniesche Photograph Collection. PP79.389, MdHS.

Delinquent kids. Likely taken by Walter McCardell, 1956. Robert Kniesche Photograph Collection. PP79.389, MdHS.

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