Silhouettes in the News

2 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 world’s protests and politicians to wildfires and war zones, LightBox looks at the use of silhouettes on the wires this month.

See the first Silhouettes in the News feature on LightBox here.

June 6, 2012. A man paraglides behind the lines of another paraglider off the Torrey Pines Gliderport in San Diego.Gregory Bull—AP
June 7, 2012. A Free Syrian Army soldier holds a weapon as he takes part in a training session on the outskirts of Idlib, Syria.AP
June 8, 2012. Pope Benedict XVI looks on following a meeting with the Sri Lankan President at the Vatican. Max Rossi—Pool/AFP/Getty Images
June 8, 2012. Riot police clear a soccer goal and other debris used as roadblocks by Bahraini anti-government protesters, unseen, to slow the police pursuing them during clashes in Abu Saiba, Bahrain. Hasan Jamali—AP
June 9, 2012. Palestinian children play during sunset in Rafah, Palestinian Territory. Abed Rahim Khatib—Demotix/Corbis
June 9, 2012. A soldier from the U.S. Army's Alpha Company guards a landing zone at night in Afghanistan's Kunar Province. Tim Wimborne—Reuters
June 10, 2012. U.S. Marines check a farmer while in Sangin in Afghanistan. Adek Berry—AFP/Getty Images
June 11, 2012. A lone remaining Amazon rainforest tree stands in a deforested section of the Amazon rainforest in Para state, Brazil. Mario Tama—Getty Images
June 12, 2012. An Indian fireman tries to extinguish a fire with a water hose at a paper mill in Amritsar, India.Sanjeev Syal—Demotix/Corbis
June 12, 2012. Tiger Woods during a practice round at the U.S. Open Championship - Daly City, Calif.Jason O'Brien—Action Images/
June 14, 2012. Residents walk on the shore of Lake Balkhash at dusk, in front of the city's 1930s-built copper smelter in Balkhash, Kazakhstan. Robin Paxton—Reuters
June 14, 2012. Barack Obama speaks about the economy during a campaign event at the Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio. Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images
June 15, 2012. A swimmer in the water during the 10 meter dive category at the 18th FINA diving Grand Prix in Madrid.Juan Carlos Hidalgo—EPA
June 15, 2012. Indigenous people walk on the barrier of the construction site of the Belo Monte Dam project at Vitoria do Xingu, Brazil.Lunae Parracho—Reuters
June 15, 2012. Brazilian activists dig on the barrier of the construction site of the Belo Monte Dam project at Vitoria do Xingu, Brazil. Lunae Parracho—Reuters
June 15, 2012. Passers by watch as magician and illusionist Cyril Takayama performs on a roadside light pole in Mumbai, India.Rajanish Kakade—AP
June 16, 2012. Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi tours the Nobel Peace centre in Oslo.Cathal McNaughton—Reuters
June 16, 2012. Firefighters and volunteers try to extinguish a forest fire at Thymari coastal village, 25 miles southeast of Athens. Yannis Behrakis—Reuters
June 19, 2012. A Nicaraguan Ministry of Health employee fumigates a house against mosquitoes, as part of a campaign to prevent the proliferation of dengue fever, in Managua.Nicolas Garcia—AFP/Getty Images
June 19, 2012. Former NBA basketball star Jayson Williams, right, is cleaned up after getting a hair cut from Edwin Genao in a barber shop in Weehawken, N.J. Julio Cortez—AP
June 19, 2012. A model of giant fish made with plastic bottles is exhibited at Botafogo beach in Rio de Janeiro.Ueslei Marcelino—Reuters
June 20, 2012. Brazilian army soldiers patrol the entrance of the Brazil Pavilion for the Rio+20 United Nations sustainable development summit in Rio de Janeiro.Ueslei Marcelino—Reuters
June 20, 2012. Guests enjoy a "Dinner in the Sky" on a platform hanging in front of the Cinquantenaire park in Brussels.Francois Lenoir—Reuters
June 20, 2012. A toddy tapper walks on a rope as he crosses between coconut trees in order to collect sap to make palm wine, or toddy as it is locally known, in Wadduwa, Sri Lanka.Ishara S. Kodokira—AFP/Getty Images
June 20, 2012. A student from the University of Indonesia descends into Jomblang cave at Gunungkidul district, near the ancient city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia.Dwi Oblo—Reuters
June 20, 2012. Afghan refugee youth are silhouetted against the sunset as they gather at a slum on World Refugee Day on the outskirts of Islamabad.Anjum Naveed—AP
June 21, 2012. A group of people look at the horizon standing on the rocky crest filled with astronomical markers at the megalithic observatory Kokino in Macedonia.Robert Atanasovski—AFP/Getty Images
June 21, 2012. Kibwe Johnson competes at the men's hammer throw finals round at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials Thursday, in Beaverton, Ore. Charlie Riedel—AP
June 21, 2012. Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli attends a training session during Euro 2012 in Krakow. Tony Gentile—Reuters
June 21, 2012. Hayel Pineda, 31, walks to the room where her husband tried to kill her by cutting her throat with a knife. A new law called the Integral Law Against Violence Against Women recently went into effect, recognizing all forms of violence against women as criminal acts and makes them punishable with up to a 30-year jail term. Nicolas Garcia—AFP/Getty Images
June 21, 2012. Racegoers attend Ladies Day, the third day of racing at the Royal Ascot, southwest of London.Stefan Wermuth—Reuters
June 22, 2012. A woman prays at a temple in Shanghai, China.Eugene Hoshiko—AP
June 22, 2012. A coal miner fires a handmade rocket at riot police officers during clashes in Mieres Figaredo, Spain.Jose Colon—AP
June 22, 2012. Children jump in the air outside the Donbass Arena in Donetsk on the eve of the quarter-final match Spain vs France during the Euro 2012 football championships. Filippo Monteforte—AFP/Getty Images
June 22, 2012. Ashton Eaton runs in the 400m during the decathlon competition at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore.Charlie Riedel—AP
June 23, 2012. Migrant children play with a rubber tire near a brick factory on the outskirts of the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneswar, India.Biswaranjan Rout—AP
June 23, 2012. People dance around a midsummer fire in Freiburg, Germany.Patrick Seeger—DPA/Abaca
June 23, 2012. Palestinian Hamas security personnel inspect a destroyed Al Saraya compound after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City.Mohammed Saber—EPA
June 23, 2012. Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood wave flags during a sit-in protest against the military council at Tahrir Square in Cairo.Suhaib Salem—Reuters
June 24, 2012. A raven sits in a barren tree as the sun sets near a wildfire west of Colorado Springs, Colo.Bryan Oiler—AP
June 24, 2012. Jennifer Suhr competes in the women's pole vault at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore.Charlie Riedel—AP
June 24, 2012. People watch fireworks as they take a bath in the Mediterranean Sea on San Juan's night, which traditionally is the shortest night of the year, in the southern Spanish town of Malaga.Jon Nazca—Reuters
June 24, 2012. A sandstorm blows past an inflatable blimp inside FOB Joyce in Afghanistan's Kunar Province.Lucas Jackson—Reuters
June 24, 2012. Samaritans pray at dawn on Mount Gerizim near the northern West Bank city of Nablus.Jaafar Ashtiyeh—AFP/Getty Images
June 25, 2012. A Wimbledon tennis fan reads a book under a pink umbrella as she queues for tournament tickets in Wimbledon.Carl Court—AFP/Getty Images
June 25, 2012. Two Indian Border Security soldiers stand guard at the Baltal base camp, 100 km from Srinagar, India.EPA
June 25, 2012. A moth flies on the window of the Mara Wara district center in Afghanistan's Kunar ProvinceLucas Jackson—Reuters
June 26, 2012. Media walk through a cloud installation by Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya titled Cloud Parking in Linz at a media preview for the 18th Biennale of Sydney at Cockatoo Island in Sydney.Tracey Nearmy—EPA
June 26, 2012. Josefina Vazquez Mota, presidential candidate for the ruling National Action Party (PAN), addresses supporters during a rally in in Monterrey, Mexico.Daniel Becerril—Reuters
June 26, 2012. A Jordanian soldier stands guard near a giant cross prior to the arrival of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, not shown, to meet with Jordan's King Abdualah II at the King Hussein convention center in the Dead Sea, Jordan.Mohammad Hannon—AP
June 26, 2012. A paraglider flies over the mountains of Algodonales, near Cadiz, southern Spain.Christina Quicler—AFP/Getty Images
June 26, 2012. News teams watch the Waldo Canyon fire from the command center at Coronado High School in Colorado Springs, Colo.Trevor Brown Jr.—UPI/Landov
June 27, 2012. A helicopter drops water on the Waldo Canyon fire burning behind the U.S. Air Force Academy, west of Colorado Springs, Colo.Rick Wilking—Reuters
June 27, 2012. A boy is silhouetted against the setting sun as he cools himself off under a pipe during a hot day in Faisalabad, Pakistan.Fayyaz Hussain—Reuters
June 27, 2012. A veiled Lebanese Muslim woman swims in the Mediterranean sea in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon.Joseph Eid—AFP/Getty Images
June 27, 2012. Indians stroll near the seafront as dark clouds gather over city skyline in Mumbai.Punit Paranjpe—AFP/Getty Images
June 28, 2012. Clashes at Ofer prison at a protest in support of Palestinian prisoners. Annibale Greco—Corbis/
June 28, 2012. A mechanic works on a bicycle from Tour de France winner Cadel Evans of Australia at a hotel in Liege, Belgium.Laurent Cipriani—AP
June 29, 2012. Spectators take in the sky walk view from the 25-50 meter tall "Supertrees" in Singapore's Gardens by the Bay park.Chris McGrath—Getty Images
June 29, 2012. Villagers travel on a country boat through flood waters at the flood affected area of Tataliguri in Morigoan district, India.Biju Boro—AFP/Getty Images

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