Tangaroa College Self-Portrait Project

9 lessons


In this project, you will produce a series of photographic self-portraits inspired by your own sense of identity.

Lesson menu


In this lesson, you will be introduced to the theme of identity and self-portraiture through the art of photography. 

You are going to capture your learning for this project in a blog - a visual and virtual diary.

    • The only person you need to share this blog with is your Wa Akoranga teacher and/or your Dean
    • All your work will be in your blog (see the blog - Self Portrait Journey by Miss Papali’i as an example of what you will be producing)

This project can be very personal to some people, however, it also doesn’t have to be! The heart behind this project is for you to feel comfortable sharing who you are; even if that is just a little bit. 


In this project, you will create a series of self-portrait photographs that engage with any interpretation of your own identity.  

You will go through the following lessons:

  • Introduction to the self-portrait 
  • Analyse artists/photographers 
  • Research artists/photographers 
  • Brainstorm your own identity 
  • Visualise your identity 
  • Plan and test shoots  
  • Shoot 
  • Edit 
  • Finalise output 


  • To establish a link between self-portrait and identity
  • To discover the purpose of photography
  • Create a space to think freely


  • A device: chromebook or phone is sufficient

Guiding questions

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

  • What is a self-portrait? 
  • What is identity?
  • How do life experiences shape your identity?
  • What is the purpose of photography?
  • Why blog?


  1. 1

    Read through the content below

  2. 2

    Then set up your blog via click here for a blog website

  3. 3

    We will be working on this blog all Term so do not get too carried away in the design set up at this stage, you can edit it as we go along

  4. 4

    Title your first blog: Lesson 1. Starting the self-portrait project

  5. 5

    Then copy and complete the following sentences in your blog:

        • “When I was told we were doing a self-portrait project I thought … ”
        • “I am feeling a bit … about this project because … ”
        • “I am confident/not confident about taking selfies of myself because … ”
        • “When it comes to taking photos I feel … because … ”
        • “Some words that are new to me are … ”
  6. 6

    See the blog post : Self- Portrait Journey by Miss Papali’i as an example of what you will be producing

Lesson content

  1. If you think of art and design as a way of expressing or interacting with the world around you, naturally the self-portrait is a specific expression of oneself and their place in the world. Self-portraiture is the art of taking these self-portraits to visually construct one's identity.

    It is important to remember that identity is subjective and ever-changing, meaning that each time an artist draws, paints or photographs themselves, they have the ability to reposition themselves. 

    In this lesson, we will simply define identity as ‘who you are’. Furthermore, the traditional thought of a self-portrait is a drawing or a photo of a person, particularly their face or head and shoulders. Current times expand this thought and embrace different ways a self-portrait can be captured. The article ‘Self Portraits - 7 Tips for Going Beyond the Basics’ provides examples of how different self-portraits can be created. 

    Lesson content

    Salvador Dali - with his Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon - Rome, 1954

  1. For many of our key historical figures, their stories have stayed alive due to the existence of their self-portrait. I am thinking about the priceless self-portraits of past Chiefs, Kings, Queens, and Leaders you often see in Museums. The Pixar movie ‘Coco’ portrays this idea with photos of past family members displayed so their memory is never forgotten. It was in this movie where we are introduced to one of the most significant self-portrait artists in the 19th and 20th Century, Frida Kahlo. Other significant artists' names - dropped in movie scenes where expensive art is discussed are Vincent Van Gogh and Salvador Dali.

    These three artists shared common ground in that their self-portraits are a reflection of their perception of themselves at the time, as well as a comment on their own culture, society, gender, and well-being.

    You will learn a bit more about these artists in the next lesson. 

    lesson content

    Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940, By Frida Kahlo

  1. Looking at the self-portrait in current contemporary art, the breadth of work is amazing. Self-portraiture can be a confronting and visually interesting way for artists to question, explore, and critique the way they see the world.

    The best thing about self-portraiture is that YOU dictate how you are represented. You could stay close to reality and confront identity struggles you may have. Or you could be completely abstract, constructing new identities and push the boundaries of what makes a self-portrait.  

    However, before all this, you must reflect and ask yourself a few questions. When approaching the task of self-portraiture, it is helpful to think about what specific lenses you see the world through.

    Does your culture impact the way you operate in the world? Are there stereotypes associated with where you live or where you are from? When you visualise your identity, what do you see?

    Lesson content 3

    Self-portrait drawing by Andy Warhol

  1. These questions will help guide what you are passionate about visually exploring in this project.

    So why photography? “One picture is worth a thousand words.” To provide you space to freely express who you are without having to think of a thousand words, we hope a picture might do the job. The essential purpose of Photography is communication. We are exploring how to communicate through a photo. We are going to become photographers.

    “If a picture is worth a thousand words, photographers are worth a million." (Tupac Shakar)

    So why are we blogging? To help you make sense of what you are learning. By even saying ‘I don’t know what is meant by … ’ or ‘some of those self-portraits were a bit scary’ you are processing what you have read and seen, by sorting out what you did and did not understand, as well as what you did and did not like. Blogging will help you to think about what you are thinking and say it; without any fear of being judged or critiqued. It is a space for you to express through words. The photograph is a space for you to express through an image. 

    Lesson content 4

    Vicky Thomas, 2009

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