The Portrait Project – for young people that know each other well

(duration: 45-60 minutes)

This activity is designed for general youth settings. The purpose of the activity is to explore how we represent ourselves and how others represent us, in particular considering the importance of ‘self-representation’ in relation to a strong and healthy sense of identity and self awareness.

Look at, Read, Listen to

1. Watch the slideshow in the Voices section. In pairs discuss what the portraits say about the people in them. What techniques and tricks have they used to represent themselves.

2. Ask each pair to look at and discuss each person’s clothes, the props they used, and the way they chose to pose. What messages do they convey about that person’s identity?

3. Each person then thinks of three things (three for each, so a total of six things) that they think:

  • Visually defines their partner
  • Positively describes their partner’s character and personality. For example they’re funny, kind, a leader, fair and principled, trustworthy, a good singer.

4. From this list each person makes a photographic portrait that represents their partner focusing on the things that they have listed. Remember to think about:

  • Location (indoors or outside?)
  • Pose (close up, or long shot, facial expression, clothing)
  • Props (hats, scarves, jewellery, or objects that mean something to the sitter)
  • Framing (what else is in the picture? Making a viewfinder can help the decision)
  • Lighting (you can make use of natural light/shade, or lamps to help convey mood)

As an extension to this activity, young people can have fun with this. Create a photo-collage portrait of your partner using images from magazines, but still remembering what’s on your list!

5. Once everyone has finished, print out or download the images and look at them together.

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