Four Amazing Contemporary Portrait Series

Published June 6, 2013
Updated January 16, 2018

Contemporary Portrait Series Twins Winning Photo

Artists can create portraits using a variety of mediums including painting, drawing, photography, and more. Yet the finished product is more than just a physical copy of the subject, it is an interpretation or specific representation of that person. A good portrait will stir emotion and interaction among viewers.

By modifying a photograph’s lighting, location, post production, angle, and other features, a photographer can tell a story with a portrait. Here are some of the most intense, creative portrait series from the past few years:

Twins – National Geographic

In January 2012, National Geographic published an article and portrait series that compared sets of identical twins. The photographer, Martin Schoeller, shot each set of twins in identical clothing, with the same lighting, and from the same angle. Both the article and photos sought to explore how and why twins differ despite sharing identical genetic makeup.

Contemporary Portrait Series Twins Older Women

Source: Boing Boing

The side-by-side comparison photographs of each set of twins are incredible. The simplicity of the shots highlights the striking similarities between each individual, but as the viewer stares at the photograph for a longer period of time, the many differences become visible.

Contemporary Portrait Series Twins Men

Source: Babble

Contemporary Portrait Series Twins Women

Source: NPR

National Geographic’s Editor in Chief Chris Johns chose one of the pictures from the series—a pair of mildly autistic, six-year-old twins—as one of ten Best of 2012 National Geographic Magazine Photos of the Year. This designation is quite a feat, as nearly 900 photographs were published by the magazine in 2012.

Portraits that Touch on the Effects of War

Contemporary Portrait Series Before After War

Source: Lalage Snow

Photographer Lalage Snow’s We Are Not Dead series visually depicts the state of mind soldiers found themselves in before, during, and after their operational tours in Afghanistan. Taken over a period of eight months, each individual was photographed on three separate occasions. The first photos were taken before heading to Afghanistan, the middle photographs were taken during the tour, and the final shots were taken once the subject had returned home.

Contemporary Portraits Before After War

Source: Lalage Snow

Contemporary Portrait Series Before After War Series

Source: Lalage Snow

The physical and emotional changes that take place in each person’s life are strikingly evident in this photo series. In the original display, each photo was captioned with a quick thought or emotion dictated by the individual. Below Second Lieutenant Struan Cunningham’s third photo it reads, “Now that I’m home, I think I’m a lot more calm. I’ve seen the worst and I’ve seen things I don’t want to see again.” This sentiment is reflected in Cunningham’s strained, aged face in his final image.

Contemporary Portrait Series Before After War Photographs

Source: Lalage Snow

London-based Lalage Snow is known for her photography, film, and journalistic pieces. Much of her work deals with subjects affected by war or cultural injustice. She has worked in a multiple countries and for a number of highly reputable publications.

All That's Interesting
Established in 2010, All That's Interesting brings together a dedicated staff of digital publishing veterans and subject-level experts in history, true crime, and science. From the lesser-known byways of human history to the uncharted corners of the world, we seek out stories that bring our past, present, and future to life. Privately-owned since its founding, All That's Interesting maintains a commitment to unbiased reporting while taking great care in fact-checking and research to ensure that we meet the highest standards of accuracy.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.