Claire Collison / Visual Literacy activities / Westminster Academy

Activity: Pairing People


This activity by Claire Collison is a light-hearted game using Martin Parr’s Love Cubes to reveal how we read portraits, and what assumptions we make.

Activity – Pairing People

Because Westminster Academy currently has a series of Peter Abrahams’ photographic diptychs on loan and exhibited in the school, the class is focusing on these and the issues they raise. In this classroom session, students used Martin Parr’s Love Cubes series, to look at the different effects of displaying images singly and as a pair.


You will need:

Printed set of Martin Parr’s GB. England. Love Cubes. 1972.


How to:

Spread the individual portraits out, but do not include the ‘key’ pair portraits.

Invite students to study the portraits, and to use what they can see to make guesses – firstly, on when and where the photos were taken. (There is a range of clues, from the fashion and hairstyles, street furniture and shopping bags, down to the types of cars and the weather).

Secondly, invite a discussion on what genre they think the photos belong to. (This provides a good opportunity to consider what we might include in reportage, fashion, and ‘art’).

Finally, ask the students to try and match up the portraits into their correct pairs.

(There is no such thing as cheating, so if detail in the backgrounds provide clues, that is a legitimate way to deduce.)

Once students have agreed on the pairings, reveal the key ‘pair’ portraits.

How well did they do? What threw them in the pairs they failed to match?

Outcomes/ Learning objectives:

While this seems to be a lighthearted game, it is effective at building student confidence in analysing the content of a photograph. It reveals how we read portraits, and what assumptions we make.



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