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A photographic portrait is a visual portrait of a person realized by another person with a camera. The photographic portrait develops from the mid of the XIX°s, upsets art and economy of the painted portrait but does not cause his disappearance. The photography inaugurates a new era in representation because we are now capable of obtaining the illusion of reality' representation independent from the human perception. The first photographic portraits, or daguerreotypes, were congealed and formal. In workshops lit by indirect light to avoid too many marked shadows, the portrayed had to hold the pose during several seconds, the neck fixed to a special support. From 1842, Louis-Auguste Bisson realizes that of Honoré de Balzac, who considers the process magic, making it popular.

Robert Cornelius ( 1809-1893 ), American photographer born in the Netherlands, interested by the chemistry, worked to improve the daguerreotype when in October 1839, he took a portrait of himself in front of the family shop. That photography is at the same time the first portrait and the first photographic self-portrait.

The photographer Nadar executed portraits which poses aimed at expressing psychology and social position of his customers, on the model of painted portraits. His Victor Hugo's famous portrait in 1884 shows him bent by the years, pressed against a small pile of books, dressed with a rich middle-class suit. In the same vein, Julia Margaret Cameron was a Victorian portrait specialist. Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon and others also worked a lot on the expressive portrait. Since 1934, in Paris, the studio Harcourt immortalized a lot of personalities by immortalizing the tradition of the studio portrait.

In the history of the photography, several photographers specialised in portrait, either exclusively as Nadar, Steven Carjat, August Sander, Annie Leibovitz or Bernard Poinssot, or as a facet of their work as Helmut Newton, Jean-François Bauret, Philippe Halsman, Paolo Roversi or Jean-Louis Swiners.

It is necessary to distinguish them from the photographic self-portrait which has just taken a considerable importance with the generalization of mobile phones and selfies.