This symposium, hosted and co-organised by the National Portrait Gallery, sought to address various philosophical questions around portraiture. Kathleen Stock (Sussex University) opened the proceedings with a paper on objectification and ‘subjectification’ in portraiture, followed by Diarmuid Costello (University of Warwick) who addressed the notion of shame in relation to Lee Friedlander’s late self-portraits. In the next session the photographer Nadav Kander was interviewed by Max Houghton (London College of Communication) and the morning of the symposium was concluded with a roundtable discussion. In the afternoon we had four more presentations: Hans Maes (University of Kent) on ‘Portraits of Unknown People’, Bence Nanay (University of Antwerp) on ‘Portraits of People Not Present’, Stacie Friend (Birkbeck: University of London) on ‘Real Portraits in Fictional Worlds’, and Martin Hammer (University of Kent) on ‘Creating and Viewing Portraits’. After a final and fruitful roundtable discussion, audience members were invited to visit the special exhibition ‘Tacita Dean: PORTRAIT’ and the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery.
Conference report by Hans Maes