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The Body as Image


In this unit, students explore their personal identity as a starting point to considering the images that others present. They consider how aspects of the body such as hair and clothing can influence the creation of an image through styling and fashion. They critically assess a range of written and visual information to investigate the use of the body as image in different times and cultures, and in contemporary photography and art. They create images that reflect their ideas of themselves and others, working from observation, memory and imagination. They have the opportunity to combine traditional and digital media. They learn about the ideas, methods and approaches used by other artists who have made images of themselves and/or portrayed others.


Students will be able to understand, use and spell correctly vocabulary relating to:

  • body image: identity, distinguishing features, symbolism, attractiveness, portraiture, form, symmetry.

  • composition: viewpoints, text, images, cropping, overlay, composition, photo montage, digital imaging.

  • comparing images of the body from different times, places and cultures.

  • Subject Areas

    The teaching activities link with the following subjects:
  • Art

  • English

  • History

  • Geography

  • PSHE/Citizenship

  • ICT

  • Resources

  • the internet, including articles on the website, Beauty Matters

  • portrait paintings and sculpted heads

  • library resources

  • dictionaries and thesaurus

  • writing frames for a variety of genres

  • magazine photographs of contemporary models and celebrities

  • computer with image manipulating software, printer

  • conventional camera and scanner, or digital camera

  • photocopier

  • a range of other art resources for practical work (paints, pencils, paper etc)

  • Learning Objectives

    Students should learn:

  • to discuss and question critically a range of visual and other information to help them develop ideas for independent work

  • about codes and conventions and how these are used to represent ideas, beliefs and values in self-portraits

  • to select and use secondary sources of evidence, including the internet
    to record and present information in different ways

  • Teaching Activities

    1. What is image?

    Class discussion of image and personality, eg Is your personality your image or is your image your personality? What image of you would a blind person have? Why can people look at their image in the mirror but cringe when they are shown a photo of themselves? How would you like to be seen by others? What powerful messages would you wish to communicate? Ask them how they might represent themselves, eg in words, in images, a combination of both? Other ways?

    Students work in pairs to use a dictionary to define the word ‘image’ and a thesaurus to find other descriptive words for ‘image’. Group discussion to summarize responses.

    Students write a short description of the image of a well known personality or celebrity. Students could read these descriptions aloud to the class without naming the person they are describing. Can other students identify the person from the description of their image?

    Consider why certain celebrities, eg Michael Jackson and Madonna, have reinvented their image many times over many years.

    Students prepare an Image Board related to the fashion items, styles, brands and logos of products preferred by themselves, a family member or a friend.

    2. The body as image in different times and cultures

    Students work in pairs to read The Body as an Object of Beauty on the Beauty Matters website and to look at self-portraits that show very different images of the self. They make notes about the messages they think the images are seeking to communicate about the person portrayed.

    In a group, discuss selected images in detail, asking questions about the ways in which clothes, expression, gesture, foreground and background details are used to convey ideas about the person. Look at one artist’s work in detail, structuring a discussion under headings, eg:
    - content – subject and ideas shown
    - form – composition and arrangement
    - how it is made – the materials, process, techniques used
    - impact – what students think about the work and the effect on them

    Read Fashion Statements: Beauty and the Clothing Code on the Beauty Matters website. The links featured at the end of the article will also be useful. Students work in pairs to make a list of the different ways in which clothing has been used to change the image presented by the body in different times and cultures. Record the findings on a timeline showing changing trends at different times and in different cultures.

    Students represent themselves in a different historical, social or cultural context. They could research conventions in portraiture from different times, places or cultures, or a particular artist using library resources and the internet, and represent themselves in a chosen style, using traditional or digital media.

    3. The body as image in contemporary photography and art

    Consider how form and symmetry contribute to facial attractiveness. How can contemporary photography use these ideas to enhance their portrayal of the body as an image of beauty? The website Beauty Check provides some interesting information about morphing, or producing a composite image of different faces using photographic technology. Group discussion to consolidate and summarize students’ findings.

    Students work in small groups to investigate the work of Ling Jian. Jian’s portraits can be compared with images of sculpted heads, eg work by Rodin, Moore, Gabo, Brancusi, Epstein and body sculptures, eg work by Anthony Gormley, Rodin, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo. Suggested resources include the library and the internet. How does Ling Jian use the body as an image to illustrate:
    - the disappearance and dissolution of world cultures and their fusion to a new cultural form?
    - his belief that individuals get lost in mass societies?
    - his claim that the longing for immortality will be permanent and may become concrete in genetic manipulation and cloning?

    Students write a report of their work on the body as image in either contemporary photography or art. This could be presented in the form of a magazine or website article, using traditional and digital media as illustrations.

    Learning Outcomes


  • correctly identify, spell and define key vocabulary

  • compare and comment on ideas, methods and approaches used in images of the self and body

  • select and experiment with ideas, materials and information to represent themselves

  • read critically and answer questions using a variety of sources

  • use ICT to deliver an appropriate message to a specific audience

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