Making faces: Portraiture as a negotiated worker-client relationship

Nancy Wisely, Gary Alan Fine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In occupations that are premised on satisfying clients, competent workers need more than technical training. They must be able to both interpret ("read") people and interact with them deftly. Through accurate character reading, workers altercast others, and thereby demonstrate their command of professional practice. This process is particularly significant for occupations that involve transformation of a client's public persona. To examine the dynamics by which workers read character, we examine the world of portrait painters. We focus on how portrait painters are socialized to the techniques and conventions provided in how-to manuals, intended to train novice portraitists on how to create successful portraits. We describe three processes that contribute to the presentation of a client in a portrait: the recognition of character, the presentation of character, and the negotiation of character.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-187
Number of pages24
JournalWork and Occupations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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