Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery

Jeremy Kimmel, 12.12.2014
Using selfies to explore self-portraiture
The Hidden Potential of 18th-century Portraiture was developed by Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery with the help of the artist Andrew Bruce. In May 2014, we ran a creative workshop for young people called Selfie: Ego, Identity & Narrative, which explored the nature of portraiture and selfies as different sides of the same coin, that of self expression.

The workshop was run as a free drop-in session in the museum’s newly opened portrait gallery for people aged 11 to 25. We promoted the event through social media, leaflets and the art departments of local secondary schools and colleges.

According to the feedback we received, the latter method was by far the most successful.

Ten people attended the session, which was our maximum capacity. They discussed portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Lawrence, and participants were shown how to read a portrait for symbolism. Using what they had learned, each young person was then encouraged to use costumes and props provided to create smartphone selfies in our galleries.

The feedback received was consistently positive, and in-school sessions have since been requested by the schools that helped to promote the event.

We have already created a full-day offer for secondary schools that will see entire year groups working with Bruce to explore creative means of self-expression inspired by self-portraits, the original selfies.

Jeremy Kimmel is the audience development manager at Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery