Hampstead School / Liane Harris / Visual Literacy activities

Activity: Appearances

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What is the relationship between internal identity and external appearance?

Materials needed:

  • Variety of props (Party Superstores Clapham Junction is excellent for supplies)
  • A2 Cards for backdrops
  • PowerPoint
  • Cameras


  • PowerPoint (content, see below)
  • Inspired by photographer Tomoko Sawada


a) PowerPoint 

  • Look at images from last week (still life portraits) that students took. Discuss-what is the subject of the photograph? Do they see shared interests between the ‘portraits’? Common themes? Differences? What are we seeing that gives us the answers?
  • Look at the work of Tomoko Sawada

Discuss – What do you think she is saying about identity? Does our identity change or is it constant? Do we change when our appearance changes? How do we make ourselves individual?

b) In pairs –one camera per pair. Set camera up with students, e.g., if a DSLR – Fixed zoom at 55mm (no distortion) Aperture Priority at f 5.6, High ISO to avoid camera shake.

c) Lay out all the props on a table along with A2 card.

Ask students, in their pairs, to take a card and find a space to take the portraits.

d) Explain the activity-

  • Each student has to decide on one expression to maintain over 4 photographs.
  • The photographer will frame each shot exactly the same.
  • Each student will use just ONE prop per photograph.
  • Each pair will end up with 4 photos each, with the same 4 expressions, framed exactly the same, with one different prop in each photo.

e) Upload and choose the 4 best images.


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