Forums: Index > The Wizengamot archive > Pictures talk;Dumb Photos

Would anyone care to explain why it is that paintings are able to move and talk and yet photographs of people just move?Surely both are magical?It would seem a shame that Harry couldn't talk to his parents through one, but then that would not have produced his isolated orphan status that makes us feel sympathy for him. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Bisto43 (talkcontribs) 10:56, 19 July 2009.

JKR addressed talking portraits at the Edinburgh Book Festival in 2004:
Q. All the paintings we have seen at Hogwarts are of dead people. They seem to be living through their portraits. How is this so? If there was a painting of Harry’s parents, would he be able to obtain advice from them?
A. That is a very good question. They are all of dead people; they are not as fully realised as ghosts, as you have probably noticed. The place where you see them really talk is in Dumbledore’s office, primarily; the idea is that the previous headmasters and headmistresses leave behind a faint imprint of themselves. They leave their aura, almost, in the office and they can give some counsel to the present occupant, but it is not like being a ghost. They repeat catchphrases, almost. The portrait of Sirius’ mother is not a very 3D personality; she is not very fully realised. She repeats catchphrases that she had when she was alive. If Harry had a portrait of his parents it would not help him a great deal. If he could meet them as ghosts, that would be a much more meaningful interaction, but as Nick explained at the end of Phoenix—I am straying into dangerous territory, but I think you probably know what he explained—there are some people who would not come back as ghosts because they are unafraid, or less afraid, of death.
I don't know if she's ever addressed why photographs can't talk, but I suppose it might be that a photograph simply captures a moment in time, whereas a portrait preserves an element of the subject's personality in addition to his or her likeness. Starstuff (Owl me!) 04:51, 20 July 2009 (UTC)