Self-Portrait Project

9 lessons

Analysis of Practice

In this lesson, you will analyse self-portrait examples by photographic practitioners.

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Intro and aims

In order to analyse other artists' work, it is important to have a good understanding of these key terms:

So what are we aiming for at the end of this lesson? You should be able to:

  • Be able to critically engage with artists' work
  • Understand the breadth and importance of research needed for similar works/projects


  • Computer (to view slideshow)
  • Workbook (to take notes and answer questions)

Guiding questions

Think about these questions as you work your way through the lesson:

  • How does an artists’ identity play a role in their work?
  • How is self portraiture used to express these ideas? 

Lesson Content

  1. So far we know that a self-portrait is an artistic rendering by a person, of themselves. However, a self-portrait really can be and mean a lot of things. The beauty of self-portraiture is its personal nature, its ability to visually communicate the position of a person through a reflection of themselves. 

    Identity, “in its simplest form is a definition of who you are” (Fearon 1). I like to view identity as something that is ever-changing and developing alongside a person. Although it is something that is self-definable, many wider factors help inform our identity. These include culture, nationality, religion, gender, and age (to name a few). It is important to know, understanding your identity wholeheartedly is not the task here. Through this project, you are aiming to explore and engage with elements of your identity. Using photography as a tool and self-portraiture as a means to get there. 

    About my Practice 

    I am Anjuli Selvadurai, an artist of mixed cultural heritage (half Sri Lankan Tamil half English) and a first-generation New Zealand woman. I have often felt fragmented in terms of my identity. A lot of mixed race, first-generation people can feel ostracised from both sides of their cultures, due to lack of cultural knowledge, language, and even aesthetics. I use self-portraiture as a device to explore and critique my relationship with my cultural identity and feelings of belonging. The series I will be focusing on in this discussion is my photographic textile series, Gita (2019). This series visualises performances of my personal identity in which I engage with notions of cultural belonging and reflections of personal identity.

    By merging two cultures and selected artefacts I construct a new and dynamic identity.

    Coming from a dual ethnic background situates my work within the realm of identity politics, exploring the contested nature of this duality. Visually existing between two worlds. This is something I wanted to be clear in my work, highlighting the relationship between wanting to be connected to your culture, contrasting with the desire to fit in with Western aesthetics. I wanted the feeling of contentment to be present, despite the highly aesthetic nature of the work. 

    Content 1

    Gita (1/3), 2019. Anjuli Selvadurai

I explored this through clashing and constructing elements of subject matter, colour, and materials. I simultaneously confront the often exoticised perceptions of South Asian culture. Utilising decorative artifacts associated with traditional and contemporary female experiences, the work addresses the concept of girlhood within this dual experience. Visualising the intersections of European and South Asian performative appearance. 

Before this series of photographs came to be, I carried out a huge amount of visual, theoretical and personal research. In short, some artists that heavily informed my research and approach include Pixy Liao, Leonard Suryajaya and Rhett D’ Cousta. Finding these photographic practitioners that were working with similar topics helped me situate my work within a wider visual discussion. In terms of theoretical research, I focussed on ideas such as postcolonial theory, intersectional feminism, identity politics, orientalism, and double colonisation. This helped me gain a deeper understanding of how my personal experiences are relevant to wider societal movements and theory. My personal research consisted of a multitude of things. Conversations with my family members, looking through photo albums, using google maps and searching for archival materials.

For me, research is just as important as making, as it can enrich the meaning and impact of your work. This should also be an important element of your project. Having a good base understanding of contextual research will ground your project and make it accessible and relevant to wider audiences.


Fearon, James D. What is Identity (As We Now Use the Word). pp 45.

For Your Eyes OnlyPixy Liao

Don't Hold On To Your BonesLeonard Suryajaya

How A Queer, Indonesian Photographer Searches For Identity In Explosive Photographs Of His Family

Bio — Rhett D'costa

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