The human countenance first left its trace upon a photographic surface in 1838. In one of his early tests, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, one of the inventors of the new photographic medium, captured the view from his studio. In the photograph, Boulevard du Temple, Paris (seen here), the sidewalks appear empty. In truth, the boulevard had been bustling with people. Their movement—normal walking speed—allowed their images to elude capture by the nascent, still-slow photographic process. Only one person stood still long enough to have his image register: the fellow with his foot resting on a pump in the lower left-hand corner. History has not recorded his name.
The Daguerreotype, named for its inventor, was announced publicly in France in 1839. The new medium bore little resemblance to our modern concept of the replicative, paperweight photograph. Daguerreotypes were printed on hefty copper or brass plates, they were unique, and they had extremely fragile surfaces that were also extremely detailed. (We would say „high-resolution“ today.) The desire to capture the portrait in less time was the main motivation for Daguerre to improve the recording speed of his invention. Indeed, the human face, our collective countenance, was the most popular subject in the first decades of the existence of photography.
Przemyslaw Moskal, in his work „Painting with Pixels“ brings the problem of portraiture into our contemporary times. Portrait photography has always relied upon the co-operation—voluntary or not—of the photographer and the sitter. (Police mug shots became a popular and useful representation as early as 1852.) Thanks to modern digitization, we have the chance—the choice—to register our own portrait here in „Painting with Pixels“. If only for the moment. Like Daguerre’s boulevard walkers, our images are not fixed permanently. The play of our movements and the passing of time both register on the pixelated surface of the screen. The effect is of an abstract (portrait) painting, here animated by Moskal for our digital era.
~ Justine Price, Assistant Professor, Department of Fine Arts, Canisus College, August 2009