How Artists See Themselves

We asked artists to send us their best self portraits, and these are the results.


For the latest edition of Format Picks, our monthly contest, we asked artists to submit their best self portraiture. We saw hundreds of incredible submissions, but these images stood out in addition to the two winners, Guanyu Xu and Andrew Kalashnikov.

These artists from all over the world each have a unique way of depicting themselves in their work, whether it’s through a straightforward portrait, a carefully staged set up, or an enigmatic mirror image. What unites all these images, apart from the obvious shared subject, is a sense of vulnerability and intimacy. These are deeply personal moments. As photographer Jason Mai says of his photograph, “I took this photo of myself to practice being seen. Because with visibility comes vulnerability and there is a lot of strength in this form of intimacy.”

The call for April’s Format Picks is open now if you want to get involved in the next edition of this ongoing contest.


Laurence Philomene

“I am a 24 year old non-binary and queer photographer creating colorful imagery around themes of femininity/masculinity and identity. I have had a self-portrait practice for 10 years now and it is central to my work as a photographer. It’s something I always go back to and need to do for myself, almost like a therapeutic tool. I shot this image near my childhood home this summer; it’s about letting go of the past and loving myself. This picture is about marrying myself, choosing to love myself as a trans person.”


Marco Dimaculangan

“I am a 21-year-old photographer shooting primarily 35mm and medium format film. I have a special interest in social documentary through experimental landscape and portrait photography. My work explores my human experience through spontaneity, intimacy, observed patterns, and light phenomena.”


Wale Abgoola

“I’m a photographer and storyteller by trade; I’m currently new to Brooklyn, New York. The way we see ourselves is such an important thing. As an African I have a prideful way of how I present myself, coming from an era of Fela Kuti. My work evolves around Afrobeat and black love. Love is being who you are.”


Liliana Pham

“I am a Vietnamese analog photographer based in the Czech Republic. I studied fashion design and started out as a model when I was 14. In the summer 2015 being a model for other photographers ceased to fulfill me and I escaped to taking self-portraits. I wanted to start photographing by myself and I needed to discover my own visual style.”


Mano Svanidze

“I am a Georgian photographer currently based in Tbilisi. I often portray people around me, including my family and friends. Focusing on feelings and moments from everyday life, I create very personal stories.”


Kailee Mandel

“I am a Toronto-based commercial photographer, content creator, and animal lover. Self portraiture to me is about exploring the vulnerability of being in front of the camera when I am always behind.”


Jason Mai

“I’m a queer, Chinese photographer from San Francisco, California. I use my camera to help those who are marginalized to be seen and heard. I took this photo of myself to practice being seen. Because with visibility comes vulnerability and there is a lot of strength in this form of intimacy.”


Naima Javaid

“I am a 22-year-old Hijab Muslim woman studying photography in my final year of Ontario College of Art and Design University. I illuminate the cultural and religious part of the world I come from because I understand the difference between the cultural norms versus religious, and translate that through my art by educating the viewer beyond preconceived notions of what Islamic culture and religion is.”


Magnus Holmes

“I’m a 19-year-old portrait photographer living in Portland, Oregon. My image is a self-portrait of me sleeping in my bedroom. I’ve always found one’s room to be a deeply personal space and wanted to depict what a corner of my world looks like. The image was taken without any clean-up of the space beforehand. I wanted to provide a genuine view of how I’ve projected my personality by means of physical space.”


Annika Weertz

“My work mainly focuses on intimacy, love, calm moments and sexuality. I took this image in summer 2017. The initial idea was to create an image with our body shapes and while I was trying different poses, we managed to capture a moment in which my eyes were open. It changed the tension within the image a lot. It is a very special photograph for me and one of my favorite self portraits, although I did not intend it to be one.”


Lauryn Holmquist

“I am an analog photographer from Houston, Texas. This photo is from a series entitled Jackie in which I explore different aspects of a character within myself. I am often a very shy and must work to let down emotional walls I build around me in order to open up to those closest. Jackie’s fearlessness and pushy edge allows me to begin a relationship without any restraints.”


Jennifer Orhélys

“This fashion series explores the universal themes of dreams, fairy tales, mythology, and religion, evoking the Pre-Raphaelite, and Romantic painting. So the viewers enter in a fairy tale and interpret the story of the image in search of the hidden meaning.”


Mamadi Doumbouya

“I am a New York City-based photographer specializing in portraiture, lifestyle, storytelling and social content. I am from Guinea, where there’s more than twenty languages spoken; I speak four of them plus English. My work is a reflection of my passion and my inspiration is drawn from the people I meets and places I’ve been.”


James Bianchi

“I’m a portrait and travel photographer living in Los Angeles, originally from St. Paul, Minnesota. My studio work usually focuses on moody, dramatic light and extreme uses of color, which help to amplify the emotions I try to convey.”


Valeria Schettino

“I’m Valeria, 24-years-old Italian girl. I currently live in Malaga, Spain. I like to tell stories, but with words I have never been good. Since I discovered photography I feel I have learned a lot about myself and my surroundings. I am constantly looking for myself. Only through photography can I find myself.”


Stephanie C. Nnamani

“NYC-based Nigerian essayist, self-portraitist, and visual artist. I advocate for self-healing through purposeful, creative work. My work comprises primarily self-portraits, literal images conceptualized and created by myself.”


Leanne Surfleet

“Analog and self-portrait photographer based in the UK, exploring themes of loneliness, nostalgia, anxiety, and light. I have been capturing self-portraits for almost 10 years now; it has become a major part of my life and work. Photography helps me deal with anxiety and fears over mortality.”


Cherie Tao

“I’ve been doing photography as a stress relief for about five years now. I like to keep the image simple but yet emotional. All my images are reflections of my state of emotions.”


Lawrence Fafard

“Always witnessing other’s intimacy, it is by looking at myself through my own camera that I was able to understand the importance of the moments I share with my subjects.”

Get to know previous Format Picks winners:
Announcing the February Winner of Format Picks
How 20 Artists See the Color Red

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