The Portrait Project

(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. Discuss as a group (or in pairs) what the portraits say about the people in them. What techniques and tricks have they used to represent themselves.

2. Ask each group 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. Still in pairs, young people work together to make two different kinds of portrait for each person. Each portrait should attempt to convey something about the person that other people might recognise as relating to them.

  • Portrait 1 – This portrait should represent the person and can include elements of their body but NOT their face. For example, they could be known for the kind of trainers they wear, their hairstyle, their nails/nail varnish, the way they stand, or jewellery that they’re wearing. They may be good at dancing, football, or singing and could represent this as a pose or in some other way without showing their face.
  • Portrait 2 – This portrait should represent the person without including anything of their body OR face. It might include objects that represent what they like to wear, or things they like doing e.g. a favourite book (or stack of books) if they like reading, or a pair of headphones if they like music, a football or other sports object, or jewellery. It might include places that are significant to that person, or be a picture of the sky if they enjoy being outside for example. These portraits may be less recognisable but will still make a strong visual statement about each individual – a representation of the individual.

4. Once the group has finished, print out or download their final images and look at them together.

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