Silhouettes in the News

1 minute read

Prior to the invention of photography in the mid-19th century, the silhouette was considered an effective and inexpensive way to record a person’s likeness or capture a scene. Although the practice can be traced back to the early 17th century, the term ‘silhouette’ derives from the harsh policies of the French finance minister Étienne de Silhouette.

The silhouette reduces an object to its most basic form. Its historical uses in art can be seen in the paper cuts of Hans Christian Andersen and the artwork of Kara Walker. In photographic terms, the silhouette is created in situations where the subject is backlit. It can be used to hide a person’s identity or play up their distinctive features, and its graphic form is often used artistically to photograph sport and dance. It heightens drama, adds atmosphere and makes a banal scene into a graphic wonder.

More than 200 years ago, the silhouette was the foremost way to document one’s appearance, but it’s still widely used in photographic frames today. From capturing the Costa Concordia to presidential primaries and pilgrims, LightBox looks at the use of silhouettes on the wires this month.

January 4, 2012. Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is silhouetted as he teaches an assembly of monks and devotees during the Kalachakra Buddhist festival in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India. Bodh Gaya is believed to be the place where Buddha attained enlightenment.Altaf Qadri—AP
January 6, 2012. A worshipper kisses a pillar of the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, during the Orthodox Christmas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.Bernat Armangue—AP
January 8, 2012. Ron Paul at a campaign rally at Nashua Airport in Nashua, N.H.Rick Friedman—Corbis
January 7, 2012. Indian Air Force Band members are silhouetted as they perform for the public at the India Gate in New Delhi. Manan Vatsyayana—AFP/Getty Images
January 7, 2012. Competitors start the race during the 2012 Pier to Pub swim in Lorne, Australia. Lucas Dawson—Getty Images
January 11, 2012. The Maryland State House dome is silhouetted by sunrise on the opening day of the 2012 legislative session in Annapolis, M.D.Patrick Semansky—AP
January 13, 2012. An ice sculptor works on a block of ice during the London Ice Sculpting Festival in Canary Wharf, East London.Carl Court—AFP/Getty Images
January 13, 2012. An idol of Buddha is silhouetted at the Tibetan Monastery in Lumbini, southwest of Kathmandu.Navesh Chitrakar—Reuters
January 14, 2012. France's Martin Fourcade competes during the mens 10 km sprint event of the IBU Biathlon World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. Martin Fourcade took third place in the event. Michal Cizek—AFP/Getty Images
January 14, 2012. A woman sweeps the premises of the Maya Devi Temple in the early morning at Lumbini province, Nepal.Navesh Chitrakar—Reuters
January 14, 2012. A Buddhist nun carries a Nepalese flag after the inauguration ceremony of Visit Lumbini 2012 at Lumbini Province, south west of Kathmandu. Navesh Chitrakar—Reuters
January 14, 2012. A man is silhouetted as he surveys the remains of his house after it was razed by Friday's fire at Manila's Golden Mosque.Pat Roque—AP
January 14, 2012. Toshihiro Kakui of Japan competes during the men's 500 m speed skating event at the Winter Youth Olympic Games 2012 in Innsbruck, Austria. Samuel Kubani—AFP/Getty Images
January 15, 2012. Nepalese sit on a tree to watch bulls fight during the Hindu festival of Maghesangranti at Taraka village, Nuwakot district, some 80 kilometers from Kathmandu. Thousands of people travel from the surrounding villages to witness the spectacle, in which 14 bison are paired off to compete.Prakash Mathema—AFP/Getty Images
January 15, 2012. An Indian Sadhu (Hindu holy man) takes a dip in the sea at Gangasagar, about 155 kms south of Kolkata. Some four hundred thousand Hindu pilgrims gathered at the Gangasagar Mela (Fair) to take a dip in the ocean at the confluence of the River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, a holy day of the Hindu calendar considered to be of great religious significance in Hindu mythology. Dibyangshu Sarkar—AFP/Getty Images
January 15, 2012. A young Nepalese plays on a swing during the Hindu festival of Maghesangranti at Taraka village, Nuwakot district, some 80 kilometers from Kathmandu.Prakash Mathema—AFP/Getty Images
January 16, 2012. Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks during the Tea Party Convention in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Matt Rourke—AP
January 17, 2012. Indian workers prepare to erect a hoarding as the sun sets in Hyderabad, India.Mahesh Kumar A.—AP
January 17, 2012. Indian soldiers from the Border Security Forces stand at attention atop camels in front of the Presidential Palace during a ceremony in preparation for the annual Beating Retreat in New Delhi, India. Kevin Frayer—AP
January 17, 2012. Cameramen film the stricken cruise liner Costa Concordia off the Isola del Giglio in Italy.Filippo Monteforte—AFP/Getty Images
January 18, 2012. Hindu devotees are silhouetted as they ride a giant fair-ride wheel at the Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati during the annual month-long Hindu religious fair of Magh Mela in Allahabad, India.Rajesh Kumar Singh—AP
January 18, 2012. Indian Border Security Force soldiers are silhouetted as they stand guard at the site of an alleged shoot-out on the India-Pakistan border.Altaf Qadri—AP
January 18, 2012. A Colombian soldier stands guard in the mountainous area of Miranda, Cauca department, Colombia.Luis Robayo—AFP/Getty Images
January 18, 2012. Thai soldiers march in a parade as part of celebrations of the Royal Thai Army national day at a navy base in Thailand's restive southern province of Narathiwat.Madaree Tohlala—AFP/Getty Images
January 19, 2012. Nearly eight months after an EF-5 tornado killed 161 people, a worker is silhouetted as he rebuilds a home in Joplin, Mo. The city has issued nearly 4,000 building permits to homeowners since the tornado hit.Charlie Riedel—AP
January 19, 2012. An Ethiopian Orthodox Christian pilgrim is pictured at a mass before the annual festival of Timkat in Lalibela, Ethiopia, which celebrates the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.Carl de Souza—AFP/Getty Images
January 20, 2012. A Palestinian man is silhouetted against the setting sun as he rides a horses on a beach near Gaza City on a cold winter evening.Mohammed Saber—EPA
January 20, 2012. A Pakistani man who works in a brick factory smokes a cigarette before heading to work on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan.Muhammed Muheisen—AP
January 21, 2012. Palestinian children play in the Zeitoon neighborhood of Gaza City. Mohammed Salem—Reuters
January 21, 2012. Mourners react to tear gas fired by riot police in the Muharraq, Bahrain, cemetery during the politically charged funeral of Yousif Mowali, 24. Authorities say Mowali drowned. His family and opposition human rights activists say relatives searching for him had been told by police he was in custody and that his body showed burns and bruises consistent with torture. Hasan Jamali—AP
January 21, 2012. Sailors install slot seals in a catapult track after a launch as the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson passes through a storm in the Arabian Sea.James R. Evans—U.S. Navy/Reuters
January 22, 2012. Chinese Filipinos pray at the Seng Guan Temple on the eve of the Chinese New Year for the Year of The Dragon at the Chinese district of Binondo in Manila.Dondi Tawatao—Getty Images
January 22, 2012. An actor wearing traditional costume takes part in an ancient Qing Dynasty ceremony in which emperors prayed for good harvest and fortune as part of the opening of the temple fair at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing.David Gray—Reuters
January 23, 2012. Dragons statuettes are silhouetted during sunrise at a temple in Kuala Lumpur. The Lunar New Year marks the start of the Year of the Dragon. Mohd Rasfan—AFP/Getty Images
January 23, 2012. An Indian policeman is silhouetted against the setting sun as he stands guard on the banks of river Tawi before India's Republic Day celebrations in Jammu.Mukesh Gupta—Reuters
January 23, 2012. A bronze lion at the base of Nelson's Column is silhouetted against the backdrop of a 'fake sun' in London's Trafalgar Square. The luminous orb, which took six months to build, weighs over 2,500 kgs and produces the equivalent light to 60,000 light bulbs. The artwork was designed by the art collective Greyworld and is in Trafalgar Square for one day only. Geoff Caddick—AFP/Getty Images
January 23, 2012. Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (L) is silhouetted as he walks off stage following the Republican presidential candidates debate in Tampa, Fla. Scott Audette—Reuters
January 24, 2012. Top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark loses to Kim Clijsters of Belgium in their quarter finals match at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia.Barbara Walton—EPA
January 24, 2012. An Indian farmer returns back home from work during sunset in Agartala, India.Sushanta Das—AP
January 24, 2012. A scuba diver removes his equipment as he prepares to exit La Cueva de los Peces (Cave of the Fish) along the coast of Playa Giron, near the Bay of Pigs, 160 km (100 miles) south-east of Havana, in central Cuba. Stringer/Reuters
January 24, 2012. Northern lights as seen from the Skulsfjord outside Troms, Norway.Rune Stoltz Bertinussen—Sipa
January 24, 2012. Indian paramilitary soldiers rehearse outside Bakshi Stadium, the main venue for the Indian Republic Day celebrations.Altaf Zargar—ZUMAPRESS
January 25, 2012. Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at Wings Plus Restaurant in Coral Springs, Fla. Matt Rourke—AP
January 25, 2012. A demonstrator waves an Egyptian flag during a protest marking the first anniversary of Egypt's uprising at Tahrir square in Cairo.Mohamed Abd El-Ghany—Reuters
January 26, 2012. U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the importance of American workers developing American-made energy to an economy that's built to last at the UPS in Las Vegas, Nevada. Obama denied Republican claims he was waging class warfare as he set out to sell his call for tax hikes on the rich in states crucial to his reelection bid.Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

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