3.4.1 Control of the sitter
Photographers proved eager to model themselves on previous practice in another aspect of their approach to portraiture. The painter potentially enjoyed total control over the portrait: pose, background and expression were all determined by each application of the artist's brush. The painter, in effect, controlled the sitter. It therefore became important in terms of their own professional rhetoric that photographers, too, should be seen to exercise similar control over their subjects.
Virtually every 19th-century manual on photographic portraiture had a chapter on managing the sitter. The photographer's role was to direct; the sitter's only response was to acquiesce. Sitters who expressed ideas of their own became, by definition, ‘difficult’.
Photographers were warned against allowing their own superior judgement to be influenced by the sitter.
In the studio all men are not equal; all men are inferior, for the time, to the artist: but unless he would awe, he must conceal this power by tact and affability.
(Anon, 1884, p.388)