Famous Black & White Portraits

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The absence of color adds an air of elegance to photography portraits. Photographers once used black and white film because color film was not yet invented. But even after the advent of color film, some chose to use black and white film as a tool. Black and white takes focus off a photograph's background and places it on the central figure. Many iconic images of revolution, famine and stardom have been captured in black and white.

  1. Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

    • The 1961 portrait of actress Audrey Hepburn from her film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is most famous in black and white reproductions. The photograph features Hepburn as character Holly Golightly. She is sitting at a restaurant table wearing a black dress with black opera gloves holding a foot-long cigarette holder. On her head is a tiara and around her neck is a thick row of pearls. The use of black and white gives the portrait an elegant mood.

    Marilyn Monroe by Richard Avedon

    • Richard Avedon's 1957 portrait of Marilyn Monroe is a well known of the actress. In the picture Monroe is wearing a black sequined halter dress and staring into the lower right-hand corner of the frame. The photo was taken at after a party and photo shoot in New York City. The photo captures what Avendon calls an "inevitable drop" in Monroe's mood that occurred after parties. The portrait was featured in a 1975 show at Marlborough Gallery in New York and now belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

    "Migrant Mother" by Dorothea Lange

    • Dorothea Lange's 1936 portrait "Migrant Mother" captures a homeless woman named Florence Owens Thompson and her two children at a pea picker's camp in Nipomo, California. Florence touches her left cheek as she stares into the distance. The two children hide their faces behind her shoulders. Lange took the photo while working as a photographer of migrant farmers for the United States Resettlement Administration.

    "Guerrillero Heróico" by Albert Korda

    • Alberto Korda's 1960 portrait of Argentine revolutionary of Che Guevara is a widely known photograph. The portrait was taken during a political protest in Havana, Cuba. The picture features Guevara wearing a black beret and looking towards the upper left hand of the frame. Today the portrait is featured on flags, t-shirts and posters. The picture is often used to indicate revolutionary ideologies and was a popular image in the American youth movement of the late 1960s.

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