Family or Identity Brief

Portraiture is the craft of representing a person in a single frame, creating magic between the sitter and photographer to reveal the person’s character. Portraits should be seen as a collaborative effort on the part of the photographer and subject. A strong photographic image is where the subject no longer appears a stranger.

Theme – Family or Identity

Family – Family photographs can be considered cultural artefacts because they document the events that shape families lives. Thus, the recording of family history becomes an important endeavour. In many cases, photographs are the only biographical material people leave behind after they pass away. But, the impact of family photo albums extends beyond merely recording history. Family photographs can tell a story. One photograph can be a mini-slice of an occurrence, but the accumulation of pictures begins to reveal threads of consistent themes and patterns. For all practical purposes, they become an informal photo essay.

Ideas to consider;

  1. Individual portraits of family members
  2. Group portrait at a family event, celebration
  3. Family occupation – family run businesses
  4. Family at Home

Research– Sally Mann, Vermeer (Painter), Julia Margaret Cameron, Lady Ottoline Morrell, Walker Evans. Dorothea Lang, Richard Billingham

Or Identity – Identity can be conveyed by our appearance, our actions and status within society. These judgments can contribute to our awareness of ‘self’ and our self image. Artist have explored this theme throughout history. Identity encompasses a variety of subjects; culture, perception, gender, sexuality etc.

Ideas to consider;

  1. An aspect of modern culture
  2. A minority, ethnic or fringe group in the community
  3. Manual labourers, professional people, craftsmanship, sports or club members.


Research– Richard Avedon, Ellis Island, Martin Parr, Cindy Sherman, Tracey Emin


Factors to consider 

  1. The physical surroundings included in a portrait offer enormous potential to extend or enhance the communication. Just as facial expression, body posture and dress are important factors, the environment plays a major role in revealing the identity of the individual.
  2. Often a subject will need reminding that a smile may not be necessary. Subjects may need guidance on how to sit or stand, what they should do with their hands and where to look. It may be a simple case of just reminding them how they were standing or sitting when you first observed them.

3 Remember your compositional elements; Line, vantage point, focus and a few more for you to think about; subject placement, lighting, perspective.


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