Staged Photography Research

Staged photography is ‘photographs that capture staged or artificially constructed scenes made only for the purpose of photography’ (Artsy, n.d.). The results of the photographs are much more controlled compared to the more candid style of street photography and will most often be forms of portraiture. 

Studio Photography

The most common style of staged photography is studio photography. They are taken ‘in a managed setting where the photographer has complete control over all of the elements that go into creating a photograph’ (Capper, 2019), and most likely will be in an indoor studio. The studio ‘will usually start out as a blank space’ (Capper, 2019) and other factors such as sets, props and controlled lighting may be added later. 

‘The earliest known photography studio anywhere opened in New York City in March 1840’ (Britannica, n.d.) by Alexander Wolcott who was an American photographer and inventor. He used a slightly adapted form of the Daguerreotype process, which was invented by Louis Daguerre one year prior to this. During this time, portraits taken would have been very expensive and would have therefore ‘been limited to the middle and upper classes’ (Harding, 2013), due to this, ‘portraits still remained precious and rare investments; for many people, they might expect to have only one portrait ever made in their lives’ (Kukulski, 2014) and unfortunately, due to the high mortality rates during this time, people who have ‘passed away might never have had a portrait made while living, so a post-mortem portrait would have served as sole tangible remembrance’ (Kukulski, 2014). These portraits would sometimes be solely of the deceased person or persons. Although, the family would sometimes take this as an opportunity as part of their mourning process to have a portrait done. Due to the photographs needing a long exposure time, the deceased ‘were often seen more sharply than the slightly-blurred living, because of their lack of movement’ (Bell, 2016).

Studio photography has then progressed along with new photographic processes until we arrive to where we are today. Studio photography is now used for many different forms of art and industry, such as portraiture, fashion photography and product photography. Above are some examples of some contemporary studio photography, including some black and white images by photographer, Richard Avedon and some more contemporary studio photography by various photographers. 

Location Photography

Staged photography is not limited to a studio setting but can also be taken in different environments. This includes places like outdoor settings and existing buildings which aren’t necessarily set up as a studio. Some examples of staged location photography may be engagement and wedding photos, which might be taken outdoors, and fashion editorial photography which, for example, may be taken in historical buildings. 

Here are some examples of staged location photographs taken by the English photographer, John Hinde. He was ‘a pioneer in the use of colour staged photography in advertising and propaganda’ (Artland, n.d.) would have many of his photographs being featured on holiday postcards. His photographic career began in the 1940’s, where he ‘was involved in producing images for promotional posters during the Second World War in Britain; informative and propagandist scenes illustrating families working with their rations, gas masks and the trappings of everyday life in wartime Britain’ (Artland, n.d.). Later on in his career, he then went on to creating photographic postcards promoting tourism to various holiday destinations and Butlin’s holiday camps. 

Annie Liebovitz is probably one of the most well-known photographers today and is ‘best known for her engaging and dramatic celebrity portraits’ (Artnet, n.d.), often working for big publication companies such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Vogue. Above is some of Liebovitz’s photographs, which show a mixture of both studio and location staged photography. 

References:

Artsy (n.d.) Staged Photography. Available online: https://www.artsy.net/gene/staged-photography [Accessed 2/11/21].

Capper, T (2019) What is studio photography? Available online: https://www.shootfactory.co.uk/what-is-studio-photography/ [Accessed 2/11/21].

Britannica (n.d.) History of photography. Available online: https://www.britannica.com/technology/photography/Photographys-early-evolution-c-1840-c-1900 [Accessed 2/11/21].

Harding, C (2013) How to spot a daguerreotype (1840s – 1850s). Available online: https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/find-out-when-a-photo-was-taken-identify-daguerreotype-photography/ [Accessed 2/11/21]. 

Kukulski, M (2014) A brief history of photography: part 11 – early portrait photography. Available online: https://notquiteinfocus.com/2014/10/16/a-brief-history-of-photography-part-11-early-portrait-photography/ [Accessed 2/11/21].

Bell, B (2016) Taken from life: The unsettling art of death photography. Available online: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36389581 [Accessed 2/11/21].

Artnet (n.d.) Annie Leibovitz. Available online: http://www.artnet.com/artists/annie-leibovitz/ [Accessed 3/11/21].

Artland (n.d.) Staged photography: top 10 artists. Available online: https://magazine.artland.com/staged-photography-top-ten/ [Accessed 3/11/21].

Image references:

Daguerreotype:

Harding, C (2013) How to spot a daguerreotype (1840s – 1850s). Available online: https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/find-out-when-a-photo-was-taken-identify-daguerreotype-photography/ [Accessed 2/11/21]. 

Studio:

Artnet (n.d.) Richard Avedon. Available online: http://www.artnet.com/artists/richard-avedon/ [Accessed 3/11/21].

J Balla Photography (2021) Flower Bride. Available online: https://unsplash.com/photos/BilfH1qKpuU [Accessed 3/11/21].

Pijak, J (2014) Eccentric pop art editorials. Available online: https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/aline-weber-editorial [Accessed 3/11/21].

John Hinde:

Hinde, J (n.d.) Postcard archive. Available online: https://johnhindecollection.com/johnhindepostcard_archive.html [Accessed 3/11/21].

Annie Leibovitz:

Ericcanto (n.d.) Annie Leibovitz photographer. Available online: https://www.ericcanto.com/en/annie-leibovitz-photographer/ [Accessed 3/11/21].

Artnet (n.d.) Annie Leibovitz. Available online: http://www.artnet.com/artists/annie-leibovitz/ [Accessed 3/11/21].

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