Image and Identity in Portraits

Portraits are a theme of identity, it is how we represent ourselves and how others see us.  Identity defines who we are while an image is how others view us.  Frida Kahlo, a famous Mexican painter for example expressed her identity through self portraiture.  One of her work is “The Broken Column”.  She used the painting to define her personal identity by highlighting her disability and the consequences of it.

“We are not born into the world as fully formed or patterned adults; rather we become who we are” as noted by (Wells, 2003) page 377.  Going through photographs; we find them generally images of people, places and events within specific cultural formations.  It relates to ones personal experience and acts like dreams and memories.  Family albums records happy memories such as parties, births, family history, holidays etc., but not death, divorce, arguments or everyday boring routine.

When people group together to be photographed; they smile and pose for the camera.  Here the photograph represents the detail of the posture or the refusal to look at the camera which means that it is not what it appears to be when you first look at the image.  It is difficult to define what lives in a picture as the photographers try to express their individual vision while the viewer share an idea that is part of the collective experience.

“The portrait is a sign whose purpose is both the description of an individual and the inscription of social identity” John Tagg 1988.  Angela Kelly explains self-image that when one looks at a mirror, he/she only checks their appearance but not see through it.  We all have a particular view or image about ourselves but when we see through it; we are often shocked of how our own self image is and thus we understand how others view us.

The photographers reveal their inner character in self-portraits.  Therefore, they need to be aware of who they are communicating to and how their work is affected by the context in which it is viewed.

Bibliography / References:

Wells, L. (ed) (2003) The Photography Reader.  Abingdon:  Routledge.


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