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Selfie vs Self-portrait

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Keywords: Cyanotype, Photography, Chemistry, Art, Selfie, Printer, Cellphone
Subject(s): Art, Photography, Social Studies, Technology, Chemistry, History
Grades 9 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Live Oak High School, Watson, LA
Planned By: Sara Sicona
Original Author: Sara Sicona, Watson
Selfie vs Self-portrait
A Lesson in Archaic Photographic Processes

In the digital age everyone has a camera on hand. We carry it in our pockets, letting the world know our every move. Social media allows us to update our faces day by day. It’s our cell phone camera that provides us with the means to create imagery that floods the Internet. What is considered art and what is considered social media propaganda? What distinguishes a selfie from a self-portrait? Have we lost our ability to provide the world with vivid imagery of ourselves because of the selfie? This assignment will ask you to create an image that evokes a reflection of yourSELF using your cell phone camera as a photographic format. The archaic photographic process cyanotype will be the medium in which the final self-portrait is completed. Artists addressed in this activity are; Sir John Hershel, Carrie Mae Weems, Cindy Sherman, Frieda Kalo, Man Ray

Big Ideas
· Art is a personal exploration and can relay the feelings of the artist.
· Artists have tried out a variety of ways to show feelings in their work.
· The invention of the camera encouraged artists to experiment freely with points of view in their work.

Essential Questions
· How do portraits tell a story?
· How does the creation of a self-portrait generate a connection within you?
· How can one develop identity and self-awareness?
· Why would artists create self-portraits?

Louisiana Core Standards
V A-CE-H1 Produce works of art that successfully convey a central theme based on imagery, ideas, feelings, and memories (1, 2, 3)
V A-CE-H2 Apply a variety of media techniques, technologies, and processes for visual expression and communication (1, 2, 3)
V A-HP-H4 Analyze materials, technologies, media, and processes of the visual arts throughout history (2, 3, 4)

Cyanotype, digital negative, contact frame, Alternative Process, Sir John Hershel, self-portrait, selfie, Carrie Mae Weems, Cindy Sherman, Frieda Kalo, Environmental Portraiture, Juxtaposition.

Formative and Summative Assessments
• Teacher will show examples of the elements and principles of design and how they work with the photographic medium to create a rich and dynamic image.
• Visual analysis and interpretation- Students will be shown examples of self-portrait photographers via a PowerPoint presentation.
• The class will discuss the difference between a self-portrait and a selfie.
• Students will find three self-portraits in any medium print them out share them with the class.
• Students will write a one-page paper writing reflectively in the third person about himself or herself.
• Students are given a demonstration on the technical aspects of creating a digital negative and it’s output.
• Students are given a brief historical background on the Cyanotype and shown step by step how to mix, coat, and expose their negatives for proper execution of a cyanotype.
• Teacher will supervise the application of the materials and the use of the classroom technology including, paper materials, computer, printer and cellphone or camera use.

Teacher will Ask…….?
· What are the qualities that create a provocative self-portrait?
· Does a self-portrait have to show us the entire person?
· Does it have to show us a person at all?
· Can an object be a self-portrait if it has a valid reason?
· What does the placement of the forms in the picture tell us?

Summative Assessment & Activity
After watching the teacher demonstrate a process, beginning to end, the students will begin their process.
Students will produce five cell phone images to exhibit for a class critique. Class will provide feedback for five minutes on each students work for final selection.
A digital image will be rendered in Photoshop from the final image chosen by the student into a digital negative. The students will coat a piece of watercolor paper with the cyanotype chemicals. Then leave the paper in dimly lit room until bone dry. The digital negative is placed on the coated paper inside the contact frame and left in the sun for allotted time for exposure. The final step is a rinse in a water bath for twenty minutes until yellow chemicals have gone. Hydrogen Peroxide is added for contrast.

Cell phone with working camera and timer
Bostwick and Sullivan Cyanotype Kit
Pictorico Pro Ultra Premium Transparency Film sheets (8.5 X 11) 20 Count
Contact Printing frame
Hydrogen Peroxide
Darkroom tray
Shot glass
Foam brushes
Watercolor paper

Student Assessment & Teacher Assessment
Cyanotype Rubric Grading Scale
Excellent 8-10 points Good 4-7 points Needs Improvement 1-3 points Total Points:
Effort Productive & effective use of class time. The quality of the Cyanotype is excellent Usually successful use of class time. The quality of the Cyanotype is average Little to no effort. Poor use of class time. The quality of the Cyanotype is below average
Creativity The entire portrait is unique to the student’s vision of himself/herself. The portrait has some unique elements of the student’s vision of himself/herself. The portrait shows no creative thought or unique qualities.
Composition Dynamic and interesting composition throughout. Parts of the composition are dynamic and appealing. No sense of dynamic/interesting composition.
Class participation Strong voice & opinion during class discussions and constructive feedback during critiques. Student’s reflection paper is profound and insightful. Occasionally participated in class discussions and some feedback during critiques. Student’s reflection paper is somewhat profound. Little or no participation in class discussions or constructive feedback during critiques. Student’s reflection paper exhibits little to no effort.
Final Grade:

Closure and group critique
Each student will hang his or her final print self-portrait and each student will have two minutes to discuss his or her work. The class will have up three minutes to discuss the formal qualities of the work and why the image is an effective self-portrait.


Website for Alternative Process Photography Cyanotype and Sir John Hershel

How to make Digital Negatives

How to make a cyanotype

Self-portrait photographer Cindy Shermans Website

Art21 video on the theme of ‘Identity’

Kalo self-portraits

Mae Weems

James, C. (2009). The Cyanotype Process. In The Book of Alternative
Photographic Processes (Second ed., Vol. One, p.601). Clifton Park, New
York: Delmar, Centage Learning.

Anna Atkins, Anatomized Leaves (from Cyanotypes of British and Foreign
Flowering Plants and Ferns), 1854-1861. Cyanotype

Cross-Curriculum Ideas
This activity can combine a chemistry class to further understand the chemical reactions of the photosensitive materials. Chemistry students are exposed the the contemporary phonographic practice of self-portraiture
Students will display their images for the entire student body to see.
Materials: Art Tools, Hard Drives, Integrating Technology, Switch Software
Other Items: 1 Adobe Photoshop for classroom 15 computers , $9.99 per month each
2 Inkpress inkjet transparency sheets, $42.86 each, total of $85.72