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Self-Portraiture: Purpose and Audience

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Language Arts And English Age Level High School (16 to 18 years old)

Without even perhaps realizing it, we create self-portraits all of the time - in the form of selfies, in photos with friends, or in photos of exotic locales. Every time we share a self-portrait, we have a purpose and an audience, even though often we don't think explicitly about those things. First and foremost, often we (understandably) want to portray ourselves positively, as attractive and interesting people. Sometimes, however, our purpose is more complex, even if we don't realize it consciously. Let's take a look at three different types of self-portraits to gain a better understanding of purpose and audience. 

This collection was created in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery's 2018 Learning to Look Summer Teacher Institute.


overview of lesson

Sherry Brown

Alice Neel Self-Portrait

National Portrait Gallery

Shimomura Crossing the Delaware

National Portrait Gallery

Washington Crossing the Delaware

National Museum of American History

Arneson Bricks

photos from National Portrait Gallery collection


National Portrait Gallery