barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


MORE REAL THAN LIFE

19th-Century Portrait Photography

The dawn of photography in the mid-19th century made portraiture accessible to a much wider public. This exhibition explores early photographic studio portraiture, including the popular carte-de-visite format.

The exhibition discusses how photographic techniques, backdrops, props, costumes and poses enabled public figures – ranging from Oscar Wilde through Ellen Terry to Queen Victoria – to fashion and promote their own identities. It also suggests how studio photography contributed to the modern idea of celebrity.

Curated in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery and University of Birmingham MA Art History and Curating students, it also features loans from the University’s Cadbury Research Library and Research and Cultural Collections.

Image: Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony, 1882 © National Portait Gallery, London

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