The Faceless Portrait

Table of Contents

Painters and photographers have created self-portraits since the beginning of time

Many old masters included themselves secretly in a street scene or as part of religious icons and paintings. Hitchcock was famous for playing a cameo role in his movies, and it was always great fun to try to figure out where he was going to pop up.

Self-portraits help you learn more about portraiture because you are the model and can sit for hours- another model may get tired and want to leave. But not you. It’s an excellent way to learn more about posing and lighting.


Self portraits with subtlety

I love self-portraits that tell a story and do it without showing the obvious, like your face. There are subtle and beautiful ways to describe something unique about yourself through lighting, objects, and places.

Make an object more than just a “thing” 


You can show something you are passionate about by putting an object in your photo. I have seen numerous images of cameras next to passports and tickets to show the love of travel. Beach lovers place hats, sunglasses, bathing suits, and other beachy things in their photographs. Instagram has many tea and coffee aficionados who show how they drink their beverages in the most creative and fun ways while sharing something personal.

How can you visually express your inspirational passions? Look to photographers and painters. Still life paintings will give you an idea of what kind of objects you may want to photograph. If you are a painting hobbyist, include your brushes and pencils in your image; cooks can add utensils or table settings, and so on. Other artists will inspire you with how they used their relevant objects to tell a story. Study them so that you can re-create, re-design, re-invent and tell your own visual story.

30-day Photo Journal Prompt

 Create a daily project around the faceless self portrait. Choose one to three objects a day and photograph them with parts of you in the photo. It can be your hand, details of your body, your shoes, or your whole back. Place yourself in every image.

Lifestyle through a different lens


 You can reinvent a whole new world as you work through the 30-day project. Your images don’t have to tell the story of your life: photograph things that you would like to have, a different lifestyle, or even things you don’t personally like. Play with ideas and try to visualize through a different lens.

 It took me a few projects until I realized that my photo world didn’t have to be my absolute world. I started to enjoy photography much more after I created a new reality, an artistic reality. My work is subtle, but you can take a leap and create a surreal photo world. Start slowly and see where this goes. I think you will enjoy this project.


Entice your creativity

 The first few images might be easy and quick to do. Your photography and self-expression will start to develop when you run out of ideas and feel less interested- maybe after two weeks. Don’t stop. Look for new muses and photograph even if you think the idea is not good, because it will lead you to a different concept and a new path on your next photo session.

Creativity has a life of it’s own; many ups and downs, and quite a few curvy roads. Go on the bumpy road and keep photographing. Create one concept a day. If you don’t like a photo, you don’t have to show it. Don’t worry about the bad days,  because those are the real teachers. Look at your unsuccessful image, study it and see how you can change it. Evolving muses will help you fix and change the image.

Don’t bore yourself

 Do not re-do the same photograph over and over. If your concept wasn’t successful, work on it once more and then move on. Let it go. Look for a different idea and a whole new way of showing that idea. Your unsuccessful ideas will become successful in another project. Repetition can get boring, and this is about having fun. Keep evolving and exploring.

Some of my favorite muses

I look at painters and photographers for inspiration, but it’s the painters who give me the best ideas. I study how other artists tell their stories.

Painters I draw inspiration from:

Edward Hopper


David Hockney

Frida Kahlo

Norman Rockwell

Van Gogh

Lucien Freud

Francis Bacon

Henri Rousseau

I can’t wait to see what you’ve made! Share your project with me and tag me on Facebook or Instagram: @50andrising


Learn more about portraits:

Get up Close and Personal with Your Self-Portraits

Silhouette Portraits

Marguerite Beaty, Blogger, Photographer & Artist

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