Tangaroa College Self-Portrait Project

9 lessons

How it's Done

In order to analyse other artists' work, it is important to have a good understanding of the key terms; Self-Portrait and Identity.

Lesson menu


  • Critically engage with an artists work
  • Explore different ways artists undertake self-portrait photography
  • Learn about key historical artists


  • Device

Guiding questions

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

  • How is an artist’s identity shown in the photo? 
  • What are the main features of the photo? 


  1. 1

    Read through the content below

  2. 2

    Begin to google search images on ‘self-portraits’


    Notice the diversity of self-portraiture

  3. 3

    Screenshot self-portraits that are interesting and explain why you picked them:

      • Find photos you liked, disliked, found interesting, and give an explanation
      • If you are using your phone, I found writing using Instagram tools to highlight parts and write my explanation helpful and fast
  4. 4

    Look for different ways a self-portrait is captured, comment on how this is different

  5. 5

    Post up your learning in your blog for Lesson 2. See Ms Papali’i’s example for help!

Lesson Content

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). Identity can be viewed 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 that 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. 

Through this lesson, we will analyse how other artists have explored and engaged with elements of identity. Mindful many of us may not have engaged this deep into the subject of photography, we will briefly study some historical artists and then use google search IMAGES’ for a visual search.

Aware a picture is worth a thousand words and that photography is a means of communication, we will use google searching images. As you begin searching, you will naturally gravitate to images you like, do not like, and/or find interesting. Some keywords to get you going would be to type in ‘self-portrait identity’. An interesting exercise is to google search ‘ self-portrait’ and then google search ‘self-portrait contemporary'. What do you notice? The key here is to acknowledge there are different ways to express oneself. Depending on where you are at this time of your life right now will influence what you wish to portray. Again, understanding your identity is not the task here. You are aiming to explore and engage with elements of your identity. 

Significant Artists

  1. Frida Kahlo

    Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954) was a Mexican artist, known for her self portrait paintings. Already suffering from chronic health problems, at the age of 18 Kahlo was involved in a bus incident that left her severely injured. It was during her recovery that she began to paint, depicting how her life experiences shaped her identity. Many of her paintings explore themes of national identity, female identity, and grapple with both the emotional and physical pain endured throughout her life.

    Vincent Van Gogh

    Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) was a Dutch impressionist artist. Van Gogh drew and painted over 40 self-portraits in his career, each portrait speaks of the relationship with himself at the time. Van Gogh found solace in painting despite his illnesses. Suffering from depression, Van Gogh took his own life at 37 years old. It wasn’t till after his death that Van Gogh was acknowledged and celebrated for his work. He is now noted as one of the greatest artists in history.

    Salvador Dali

    Salvador Dali was a Spanish surrealist artist. Many of his paintings were inspired by his own dreams. Known as an extremely outspoken and extravagant man, Dali took his avant-garde aesthetic into mediums such as film and fashion. Dali’s less traditional approach to the self-portrait saw him painting an ‘assemblage’ of items that each represented him.

    Significant Artists

    Vincent Van Gogh self-portrait (1889)


"These Frida Kahlo Quotes Are As Evocative As Her Paintings". Oprah Magazine, 2020, https://www.oprahmag.com/life/relationships-love/g26840075/frida-kahlo-quotes/?slide=1.

"Vincent Van Gogh - Paintings, Quotes & Death - Biography". Biography.Com, 2020, https://www.biography.com/artist/vincent-van-gogh.

Biography.Com, 2020, https://www.biography.com/artist/salvador-dali.

Tips & tricks

Google search image some of these keywords to get you started: 

  • Self-portrait
  • Identity self-portrait
  • Contemporary self-portrait
  • Self-portrait photography

Note: If you like a certain style of a photo. Click on the photo and scroll down, google will bring up related images to give you more options to view. 

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