Exercise: A self-portrait


Write 150 words about yourself and select a stance from this to bring to the camera.

Produce three images that tell the viewer all about you – as you see yourself.

Now ask friends or colleagues what they think your strengths and weakness are. Ask them what defines your character to them, how they see you. Produce three images from your friends’ points of view.

Write the experience up in your learning log. Do the images coincide in terms of your own and your friends’ impressions of you? In other words, were you trying to photograph the ‘same’ person in each case or someone completely different? Then look again at the images and see if they coincide visually. Try and analyse your findings.


It’s only two exercises ago that we were asked to do an identity-based self-portrait series and this is therefore either deliberate and very clever, or a further indication that G&M is the most discordant of all my OCA courses so far. Maybe each section had a different author…

Me on me

I am intelligent and curious, always seeking new knowledge – but this can sometimes tip over into over-thinking things.

I am tolerant and forgiving of others – I like to think of myself as a kind person, but this sometimes means that I can be seen as a pushover.

I’m half-extrovert, half-introvert – I often crave human company but equally often prefer to recharge and gather my thoughts alone. I do however consider myself a good team player.

I am principled, with an inbuilt sense of right and wrong, which can comes across as being idealistic or self-righteous.

I have more self-doubt than self-confidence. That said, I am getting more comfortable in describing myself as creative.

I am unashamedly work-shy – in my opinion workaholics lack imagination. I’m only really happy to put effort into things that I enjoy or think are useful.

People think I’m very organised but that’s my workplace persona – at home I’m the exact opposite.

I decided to do one image each on:

  • Team player
  • Over-thinker
  • Disorganised

Others on me

Intelligent. Has a strong moral code. Inquisitive. Demanding of self more than of others. A big picture thinker. Sociable. Lazy, with things that hold no interest for him – no work ethic. Geeky. Not a handy man. Lefty.

I’ll go with:

  • Inquisitive
  • Sociable
  • Lazy

I think this exercise may have fallen a little flat as there weren’t huge contradictions between my self-perception and the views of others. I recognise them all as ‘versions of me’. This is maybe down to the fact that I don’t currently have a ‘work life’ and am not wearing too many different ‘masks’. I’m more of an open book these days :-)

One interesting point is that my self-analysis was balanced, possibly edging towards self-deprecating, while my friends were, on the whole, positive. This led to my images being ⅓ strength, ⅔ weakness and my friend-driven ones being the other way round. Note: I chose who to ask, and I’m choosing which of their responses to depict! So my own subjective influence is there, even in the so-called ‘external’ interpretations…

However, I do appreciate the underlying point that it’s not possible to capture an objectively ‘true’ portrait of anyone’s character, even one’s own. Aside from the notion of preconceptions (of the sitter and the artist), identity is a mutable and plural concept – ‘who we are’ differs from day to day, maybe even moment to moment, and the end result is something that can only represent a version of the sitter, at a point in time. We’re all too complex as human beings to be depictable in the shorthand of a single still image. I talked about this point in a reflective post recently.


4 thoughts on “Exercise: A self-portrait

    • Rob Townsend 26 May 2016 / 10:02

      Ha, yes some of these exercises do feel like box-ticking. Not all of them. I’m trying not to be too cynical…


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