Editors’ Note: This is an excerpt from the excellent introduction to the exhibition’s catalogue. It was written by the show’s curator, Frits Gierstberg, who is also the head curator at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam. If you enjoy these pictures or his words, we strongly recommend seeing the show and finding the catalogue!

European Portraits: an Introduction
by Frits Gierstberg

We live in the age of the portrait. Never before in history have portraits been so popular, albeit mainly in the form of a selfie. Similarly, never has it been so incredibly simple to make a portrait to show to the whole world. The rise of the Internet, social media and the smartphone have all given the photographic portrait an unprecedented strong impetus. Yet not all portraits are the same. There are many different sorts of photo portraits (passport photographs, family portraits, self-portraits, profile photographs, writer portraits, glamour portraits, official portraits, etc.) and just as many applications and uses (the pop idol in a teenager’s bedroom, the king in the courtroom, the mayor in the town hall, the dictator in the town square, the loved one in the purse, the deceased on the mantelpiece, the writer on the back cover, the artist in the museum, and so on). Portraits often have great personal or social significance. They are part of social customs, rituals and protocols.


I myself, the other person, and the maker
Looking at a portrait is like looking at another person. Whether full-length, frontal (face, head and shoulders), three-quarter or in profile, a portrait ‘communicates’ a look, a glimpse, a facial expression, and even more. It expresses something, aims to tell us something about the person or persons portrayed: a presence, a status, a type or ‘character’, or a frame of mind—but then why are there so few portraits of people laughing or crying?

The exhibition ”FACES: European Portrait Photography since 1990” will run at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam until August 23, 2015. It will then travel to the Museum of Photography in Thessaloniki, Greece and hang there from September 11 until Feburary 28, 2016. So, don’t miss this great show!