Assignment 1: Self-Portrait & Personal Meaning


In this first assignment, you have two tasks related to the meaning of images in your own life. You will create a self-portrait (photo or otherwise) and write about a meaningful photograph that you value.

We will use student work for class discussions all semester, so please note that your assignment submissions may be shared in class. (Grades and other assignment information will never be shared.)

Due: Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 11:59 p.m.
Points: 20
Grading: Each part is worth 10 points, graded for completion of all instructions and general effort and quality. To earn full credit, your submission must show some thought and engagement with course concepts in a strong attempt to complete the assignment well. Please see the full rubric in Blackboard.

Part 1: Self-Portrait

Long before the proliferation of selfies, self-portraits were an important form of expression in art and photography. The challenge is partially technical, since it’s difficult to be both subject and artist. But it’s also a creative challenge to represent yourself in a single image.

Self-portraits existed before photography and often represent an artist’s style. In photography, self-portraits often make use of shadow, reflection and illusions.

For one modern example, Julia Corbett, a photographer and WSU alumna, uses nature imagery in her self-portraits.

This recent self-portrait exhibit is also a good resource for interesting ideas.

1. Create a self-portrait (photography or another medium) that visually says something about you. To count as a self-portrait, you need to be depicted in it and you need to take it. It needs to be newly created for the purpose of this assignment and should be entirely your own work, but otherwise there are no limitations.

2. In a text document such as Microsoft Word, write a brief artist’s statement of 150-250 words explaining how you created the self-portrait and what you want viewers to see or interpret from it.

Part 2: Personal Meaning in Photographs

Photographs that depict people, places and things we know hold personal meaning that is often not fully understood by other people. Our memories and experiences give them meaning, and photos in turn sometimes shape our memories. In this writing exercise you’ll explain why a particular photo is meaningful to you.

Make sure you’ve read “My Grandmother’s Shroud” by Teju Cole from this week’s reading list.

1. Choose a photograph that is meaningful to you. Preferably you should be have (or be able to obtain) a copy of the image to upload with your assignment. If you do not have it, see the note in Step 2 about writing a longer description of it.

2. Write 350-500 words about the photograph:

  • What does it show? Who took it and when?
  • What would it look like to someone who doesn’t know its meaning?
  • What makes it meaningful to you? Has its meaning changed over time? When you look at it, what does it make you feel?

If you do not have the actual photo, describe the photo in as much detail as possible, using ~200 extra words. Your total piece should be 550-750 words.

Your writing will not be harshly evaluated for spelling and punctuation as long as the ideas are clear, but eloquence is always appreciated. Double-check your work for typos and errors that may obscure what you’re trying to say.

Submitting Your Work

Submit the following to Blackboard by going to “Assignments” and uploading the files with your submission:

  • Written portions from Part 1 and Part 2 (same document or separate)
  • Self-portrait image from Part 1
  • Personal photograph from Part 2, if possible

Always upload images separately as photo files (JPG or PNG) rather than embedded into your text document.