For Students
Exploring Identities

Each day we present ourselves to others, constructing our identity through choices about how we speak, dress or act. Yet, we can also be affected by the interpretations of others, and can choose to connect with or challenge these interpretations. 

Can a photograph capture the "real you"? Would it be an image of you, or a series of objects instead? Maybe a landscape or a particular space? Would it include other people, or those events and experiences that shaped you most? Or maybe it would be abstract--a collection of sounds and colors, or perhaps words and text?

What defines you?

"Real Me"

I wear this invisible mask when I am among strangers. I look after how I behave and care so much how others might think of me. This is what I have recently realized about myself. I just constrain myself to be a normal person in a society. With my good friends, I forget about my own constraints and am just "real me". My friends know who I am really, so I don't need to hide my personality or pretend to be someone else. They see real me and like who I really am. In return, I just need to like "real me".

Enkhjargal Lkhagvajav - Economics, Mathematics (2015)

I've never liked people taking pictures of me. Maybe it's because I prefer being behind the viewfinder, rather than in front. This photograph of me is from a time when I never worried about what others were doing around me. Not all children were lucky to grow up in such a positive situation, which is why photography is so important to people. It catches a slice of life they may never appreciate ever again.

Alex Keveney - Economics (2017)

I believe that self identity can be revealed in the way people perceive the world. I chose this photograph to depict my identity because I value purity in conscious decisions and the innocence of youth. This was my view on a spontaneous late night escapade on North Campus, In the midst of the stress and influences of our structured environment, a best friend of mine and I, were able to let go and obtain a secular, worldly state of mind. I believe that an individual's values align closely to their identities. For one captured moment, I felt clarity in mine.

Simone Pierce - LSA, entrepreneurship, art and design (2018)

For the love

This picture was taken while I was performing with my south-asain, fusion dance team, Michigan TAAL, as part of A2 Dhoom, one of the bollywood dance circuit's biggest competitions. They say the four years you spend in undergrad is a time to figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life. If there's anything i've learned it's that you have to do things out of passion, and if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. If there's anything i've always been sure of, its that being creative is who I am. No matter what anyone has tried to convince me of or no matter how uncertain my future may seem, I know that if I spend my time creating I can change the way people view pursuing more expressive mediums of passion, especially as an indian-american heavily involved in the south-asian community. As a choreographer, dancer, painter, illustrator, photographer, graphic designer, and all around creative visionary there's no feeling like the feeling of putting your work out there for others to see, whether that be on stage or on a canvas. Every medium is a new challenge to out-do previous works and to find connections across mediums that work together to convince the communities I live in that there is more than one way of learning and that often times there is more to a piece than what meets the eye. But above all, it is a means to reassure myself of what I was always meant to do. Simply create and express.

Neha Kapil - Art & Design, Psychology (2015)

In motion

Just give me my backpack and a plane ticket

Eliza Bara - International Studies (2015)


Marisa Frey - Undeclared (2018)


If there is a single quality that is shared by all great men, it is vanity. But I mean by ''vanity'' only that they appreciate their own worth. Without this kind of vanity they would not be great. And with vanity alone, of course, a man is nothing. -Yousef Karsh

Noah McCarthy - History (2018)


Defined, not by my past, but by the things I become as I carry histories with me into the presence of the future.

Yesenia Prewitt - Art & Design (2018)

An early dose of culture shock

Going to elementary school in France was a defining experience for me. Coming back to the United States, I lacked many of the baseline skills that my peers had learned- including basic print. Essentially starting from scratch at a later age was frustrating at times, but the experience as a whole has helped make me into the person I am today.

Sarah Cartwright - Biopsychology, Cognition, Neuroscience & History of Art (2016)

Poor Spending Habits

This picture, the clutter and surfeit of books on my dorm room desk, illustrates a lot about me. I'm an impulsive buyer but a passionate reader, and this nascent book collection evinces just how passionate I am about what I enjoy the most.

Karl Williams - English (2017)

Aura of Homeliness

My mom texted me this picture a few weeks ago to show me the work she'd done on the front lawn (mom's can be pretty adorable). The picture is pretty dull -- my house looks about as normal as it can get. Having just arrived home for the summer, however, I realize the importance of the personal, physical viewing experience that pictures can't capture. Benjamin got it right when he said the aura of the object is lost.

Kel Beatty - Political Science and English (2018)

It's Not All About Eating

On a college campus, the "Freshman 15" lurks around every corner during your first year. But food is a gateway to new things. I have made my closest relationships at college by going out to eat with them, grabbing a "Squad lunch," or by trekking down to Main street. I have found that the memories made with people, new friends, new mentors, and even family, have been made during meal time. The ability to gather around as one, single unit and to talk with one another is how bonds are made- maybe with extra good food as well. My true self comes through the people around me, and what they can offer me to make me a better person, and hopefully how I can do the same for them.

Madi Lewis - Undeclared (2018)

Moment of Reflection

I feel most like myself in nature. Taking in the natural beauty of my surroundings allows me to feel more at peace. Nature gives me a space to be calm and reflect. The river in the Arb is one of the few spaces on campus that feels like a true escape. Since it is Earth Day, I am posting this picture in hopes that we will all remember the earth's beauty and our responsibility to preserve it.

Sarah Harthun - LSA (2018)

Four Sweet Years

Today I started the last week of college. It is so surreal. It is so sad. This is a photo from a few weeks ago, the beautiful Ann arbor sunset on State Street and East Liberty. I am going to miss this beautiful town, the classes, the teachers, my friends that have turned into family. It seems like I just started my Freshman year on North campus, struggling to understand the bus schedule and why art classes didnt follow "Michigan Time". I changed my major, I declared a minor. I learned things in class and in life I never expected. I studied abroad in Rome, traveling Europe for 5 months. I interned in New York. I do so much, yet I wish I did more, I wish these days were not over. I know its cliche, but finishing college is a chapter of my life that I thought was so far away. I will admit I am scared to see what the future holds. I am struggling between the decisions of making money and following my dreams. This year I did my own takes, I signed my own lease. I am growing up and taking on responsibilities. However, this school, this town, prepared me for the new adventures I am about to embark on. Hopefully one day I will com back here, tour Mason Hall, drink coffee at espresso royal, walk through the diag (stepping on the M), and cheer at the Big House. College went by faster than I could have ever expected, but I am so thankful I got to experience at this amazing school. I cant wait to explore a new part of the world, using what I learned here. Thank you to the most amazing teachers and friends, and a supportive family for making this journey truly unforgettably amazing. My identity is forever shaped by these people and I will practice their advice in the next chapter of my life as I enter into a new career in Boston. (Sorry to be so sappy!)

Allison Bell - Art & Design and American Culture (2015)

In this moment, there was bliss

Infinity pool + friends + good conversations + bonus: sun slowly sets I want nothing more than to pursue more moments like these.

John Rhee - Economics (2015)

Miscellaneous Family

Everyone within my family is adopted from different families. We've all brought with us different lives, families, and ways of thinking into one functional family. It's due to this odd dynamic that I've become the woman I am proud to be today.

Rose Stacey - Art & Design (2016)

What is the difference between love and affirmation?

In the movie "Birdman," somebody criticizes the birdman guy for being unable to tell the difference between real love on the one hand, and affirmation / approval on the other. Naturally, this was deeply concerning to him. But, need I remind you: he can fly.

Seth Wolin - Philosophy & Linguistics (2015)

Do what you love, with the ones you love.

Life is too short not to be making memories with the ones you love the most. Here is a picture of me playing the sport I love most, golf, with the man I love to play it with most, my father.

Jacob Migdal - undelcared (2018) (2015)


Too Blessed To Be Stressed

Dylan Deitch - Undeclared (2018)

Lego and I

I found my identity in the things I enjoy. In this piece I literally put my identity into Lego, my favorite childhood toy.

John McInerney - Art & Design (2016)


Kara Argue - Art & Design (2016)

Music is who I am

I've chosen this picture because it accurately portrays how I feel when I play music. I can't create music without it coming from somewhere meaningful in my soul, so when I play it often feels like I'm a part of the instrument, like I'm not making something brand new but rather coaxing it out of some place where it's been staying. My face relaxes, my mind wanders, and if it's a good jam, the music just kinda does the work for me. I love music because it allows me to lose track of myself, and just follow the abstract voice of my emotions wherever it ends up going.

Paul Mayer - Drama in the RC (2016)

Just being silly

This image defines me because it is when I am at my very happiest which in the case of this photo is when I am just goofing around with friends taking “glamour shots” in cool places like graffiti alley. Even though I am rarely this free in my day-to-day life this is the way I like to think of myself in my head.

Erica Sietsema - Computer Science (2016)

Football and my Dad

About 10 years ago my dad took me to my to my first Jets game where I absolutely fell in love with the game. Since then I have become the biggest football fan imaginable and am grateful to be able to share my passion for cheering on my team(s) with my dad.

Sydney Dymant - LSA (2018)

For the Kids

This picture captures who I am- a family oriented, happy girl who loves the innocence children bring.

Nicole Cuneo - LSA (2018)

My Upper Peninsula

"Never forget where you came's what made you the person you are today." - Unknown

Nathan Loosemore - Movement Science - School of Kinesiology (2016)

Just Kidding Around

I want to live my life having as much fun as possible. I want to good around, dress up, and act like Captain Underpants if I want to. Although I'm getting older, I highly value the importance of reliving my childhood.

Josh Blum - Economics and History (2018)

Other Half

"Are you identical or fraternal?"

Emma Patterson - Communications and International Studies (2018)

Like Water

As the old Chinese saying goes, "The greatest benevolence is like water." I admire not only the practical function of water as it is vital to sustain lives, but also the philosophical implications behind its characteristics. When water is calm, it is selfless and tolerant, as it accepts and carries both good and evil. It is also flexible and versatile, as it can always find its place in all kinds of environment. Even though it sounds so wrong to aim to be something that doesn't possess an unique and strong characteristic in the modern society where individualism is stressed, I wish I could be like water. Soothing and ordinary, yet vital to people around me.

Yan Tsui - History of Art (2016)

Women In My Life

Between my three older sisters, my mother, and my grandmother who lived with us, there have been a lot of women who've influenced my life. I love them all differently and deeply. They inform almost every ation I take in some way.

Suzy Weiss - LSA (2018)

Never Forget.

Without roots a tree cannot grow.

David Immerman - LSA (2018)


I chose this photo because I think it expresses my personality well. While I am reserved at times, and may come across as shy, I really am happy, confident and silly. I love meeting people and exploring. This photo was taken this past summer, which was the best experience of my life! I didn't know what to do or where to stay for the summer, so I spontaneously moved up north to work on Mackinac Island. I made amazing friends, spent so much time in nature and got to bike everywhere (literally, everywhere). I also ate a lot of fudge, which is great for the soul. I think is an example of me at my happiest, which is why I feel it represents me well. :)

Olivia Meszaros - Communications (2017)

Earth & Water

My family is from a remote area hidden in the mountains on the boarder between San Luis Potosi & Queretaro Mexico. There's water, lush fruit trees, and greenery all around. I was raised in a neighborhood of Detroit constantly balancing the constellation of identities that felt right. For some reason in these mountains, walking barefoot along rivers or amongst the trees things make sense. There seems to be a tranquility and serenity of spaces still lost in time, lost to nature; it's almost as if these spaces don't ask me to balance but just to exist.

Irma Andrade - History of Art & Sociology (2015)

We Dem Boyz

I wouldn't be who I am today without my brothers. We've been through it all together and I would be lying if I didn't say who I am today wasn't directly attributable to them. What would artists be without those who inspired them?

Isaac Miller - Engineering (2018)

The Real Me

I selected an image of myself around 3~4 years old. I am majored in History of art. My identity is simple. I am a child and I wanted to return to the " pure state" of myself. I particularly like Henri Rousseau's artistic identity. History of Art - 2016

Linyi Chen - History of Art (2016)

world wide web

in a time when one form of one's persona can be constructed with the information that he or she both chooses to and chooses not to display online--whether it be pictures, statuses, or videos--it is more difficult than ever for me to separate who i really am from the person whom people think i am. i can say with confidence that i am sure of who that person is, but with so many resources available to others, is the image that people have fabricated of me really something that should define me? i suppose this is answering a question with a question. my answer is no.

Cellik Adams - Cognitive Science? (will be transferring schools for photography next year) (2017)

Let the Commencements Begin

My name is Julie Cruz. I am half-black, half-white, with German and Cuban ancestry. Many are initially confused by this combination, but let me clarify you as to who I am, beyond the ethnicities I represent. I grew up engaging with the beauty of color, words, and people, and am still doing so. I have chosen to pursue dentistry at the University of Michigan, and am enthralled to take on a whole other world of learning, community, and fulfillment. I constantly marvel at the power and possibilities of science, and am honored to go forth into a field in which I can touch the lives of those who are most in need of its wonders. This picture (and others) portray my 2015 undergraduate commencement ceremony - In it, my mind is whirring with the excitement of what is to come. Let the new beginnings begin!

Julie Cruz - Dentistry (2019)

I am a child of the digital age.

Video created and edited by me. Computer is love, computer is life.

Stephanie Kulmaczewski - Screen Arts & Cultures (2016)

I guess if I can't create art the next best thing is to study it?

Talent is something you're just born with...too bad I didn't get that gene. I always wanted to be artistic, to be able to create by drawing, singing, sculpting, or performing, however that never really turned out so well for me. I guess if I can't create art the next best thing is to study it?

Ashley Volpert - Art History (2018)

Thinking about Stuff lol

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you..

Sam Orley - Business (2018)

Wouldn't it be nice to get everything done?

I would describe myself as someone who has many interests and constantly wants to try new things. However, I tend to get very overwhelmed and not know how to manage my time well. This picture shows me with multiple hands and arms - if only that were the case, I would be able to get done all I wanted to accomplish.

Sophie Wolens - Psychology (2017)


I am from New York, and the artist that inspires me the most is Jean MIchael Baquiat, and this is my favorite piece of his. This piece inspired me to create art.

Zachary Whitford - Computer Science (2018)

Sea above.

grace l - art & design (2015)


we are all here together now.

audrey stanton - art & design (2015)

curly hair DO care

Everyone wants what they can't have. For a really long time I wanted to have straight hair; it is so much easier to work with and more manageable. It wasn't until recently that I have learned to appreciate my natural curly hair. My hair defines me; it's wild, crazy and usually has a mind of its own.

Alondra Vergara-Diaz - Engineering (2018)

my number denies me

I have encountered many failures recently, including gaining weight. I have let these failures define me and they let them deny who I am supposed to be. They have denied me from enjoying life. These define me, and they are my identity.

Jay Gill - Undeclared (2017)

Step Inside my Mind

This piece was made in conjunction with one of my art courses, and with it, I sought to bridge the gap between the idea of a character and that of the self. My characters often reflect on me in different ways, and I tried to express that here by changing my hair color in Photoshop to match that of my character, and also through use of the inversion tool, rendering my mirror and bedroom as a strange alien landscape. Immersed completely in my own thoughts, where maybe nothing quite makes sense, I become the one link to reality, and it is a reality that I define through myself.

Susan LaMoreaux - Art & Design/German (2017)

Incomplete Perspective

Usually, people see someone who covers their face with their hair like this as shy. I used to be, but now that I am significantly less shy than before. Therefore, this now takes on a whole different meaning for me. It symbolizes the fact that, even though I have so many interests, I will never be able to learn everything or have all the experiences I want to have. Yet I still smile in the face of it all and continue to be excited by many things.

Katrina Carolyn Soyangco - Neuroscience (2018)

You Are What You Eat, From Your Head to Your Feet

This is a candid photo that my roommate took of me. I was sitting on the floor, eating straight out of a veggie platter while conversing with my friend or boyfriend on the phone. Mind you, this was probably between the hours of 1-3am. Part of my "identity" is that I am that one friend who is always down to bake, cook, eat and/or dine out. Don't let the veggie platter fool you though - I love indulging in sweets and junk food as much, if not more, than any other person!

Diane Kim - Communications/Political Science (2015)


One’s identity is shaped by what they do and what they pursue; In my case, I am studying art and design, which occupies huge portion of my identity. By capturing roughly sketched self-portrait, I attempted to emphasize this idea.

Jong Hoon Kim - Art and Design (2017)

Self Image Selfies

My picture is a selfie because while I am undeniably a part of the 'selfie' generation I feel undeniably distanced from them. We are caught in the constant battle of self-doubt and self-enjoyment and our constant habit of self-recording are our way of recording this. The setting is just another moment in my everyday life. The painting behind me is my own work. The idea is that our self-image shouldn't be contrived; just who we are.

Kristina Raines - History of Art (2016)

"May the next few months be a period of magnificent transformation"

Finding oneself is a lifelong process, a process that requires independence and self love, but also the power and comfort of friendship or broken relationships. Learning is not easy, living is not easy, and if it were we would not be so capable of growth, we would rather remain stagnant. We are all still exploring our identities, the complexities and depth of the self and of others, and the beautiful is in that process, in finding productive spaces and beauty within.

Corine Rosenberg - Social Theory and Practice (2015)

Shadow People

This piece was made in collaboration with Mia Massimino, Sophie Goldberg, and Eliza Cadoux as part of our multimedia performance, Call Your Mom (Nov 2014).

Emma Bergman - Interarts Performance (2017)

Me and my bass

A picture of me and my bass guitar at the bling pid!

PI Zza - Performing Arts Technologicals (2015)

Watchin' my good friend burn

My best friend Niki died when I was 11 from spontaneous combustion. I wanted to make an image that explored my feelings of loss at the time.

rob luzynski - Program In The Enviroment (2016)

"When she smiled, she said it all."

Maybe one picture cannot capture my identity, so perhaps four. These pictures, taken candidly at a photo-booth, capture aspects of my identity, if not my identity as a whole. My love for figure skating (as the photos were taken at a national competition as I wore my competitor's jacket), my affection for my friends, my love of humor and laughter... Core aspects of my being captured in four frames.

Maeve Pascoe - Neuroscience (2018)

Night Owl

Quiet, pensive, and lover of the stars. I have always loved the night. I have nothing major against the day, but the night is where I feel at home. Days are simply too loud, too bright, too much. But at night everything quiets except the scattered lights that seem to mirror the stars and a few cars. Even my normally buzzing thoughts and endless worries seem quieter at night. I love looking out my window at the other night owls up and hunting.

Morgan Rondinelli - ecology and evolutionary biology (2017)

blue lagoon

and in this moment, no one has ever been or will ever be me. what could be more real than that.

Adam DesJardins - Sociology / Performing Arts Management (2015)

I'll believe

Capture and edit of graffiti in Miami

Jennifer Yang - Business (2018)

, ,

Welcome to Perversity

Using the foundational work of Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing as he defined and shaped much of what would later be medically defined as sexual perversities in Psychopathia Sexualis - this piece re-embodies the lived experiences of three of Krafft-Ebing's case studies for "Acquired Inversion". Part of a live performance, this piece explores the evolution of a cultural/medical understanding of gender-identity and sexuality.

Brian Garcia - Interarts - Performance (2016)


Everyday we inhale and draw ourselves in. Stills from a performance in which I am wrestling with my breath.

Mary Ayling - Graduate Student, Penny W Stamps School of Art and Design (2015)

Identity in the Creative Process.

Searching in the mental clutter.

Jess Hasper - Organizational Studies, Political Science (2016)


Torn between saying "yo" and using proper English.

Latifa Al-Mohdar - Economics (2018)

Here and Queer

Messy room, boxer briefs, dyed hair, binder... big gay flag. I don't try to hide who I am; I am here and queer.

Jasper Richter - Costume Design and Production (2017)

Princess Mia

This video explores the teaching of gender in our society and how certain ideas of femininity and masculinity are pushed onto children at such a young age.

Mia Massimino - Interarts Performance (2017)

Fall Risk

Nonie Tompkins - LSA undeclared (2017)

A Life Inside/Highway II

My family is predisposed to general anxiety disorder. Through this experimental documentary film, I explored ways that I could tell my family's stories as honestly as possible and how I could confront my own struggles with anxiety through video and dance. Words on courage and freedom: "If you are fortunate enough to survive cancer, the silly things that you worry about really are no issue anymore. For example, I used to be afraid of riding horses. Well, I don't ride horses anymore and I probably shouldn't, so...I don't have to worry about horses anymore." - Marge Gavan (grandmother)

Erica Gavan - BFA Interarts Performance (2017)

I spend a lot of time in front of my computer, so this captures the most "real me". I added a little bit of a filter to art it up a bit, but anything more just wouldn't be me. <3

Dom Parise - Computer Science (2015)

Catching Light

Photo taken in Austin, Texas. I spent the majority of my adolescence in Austin and it's rich culture is part of the reason why I'm still so fond of it.

Robyn Green - Communications/ Minor in Entrepreneurship (2016)

The HIGH CounTess

The HIGH CounTess is a visual manifesto. The CounTess has created this video work for herself, not the Children of Eve, although there is something titillating to her about humans seeing her body. The manifesto outlines her understanding of her body as a sexual object. She surrounds and adorns herself with the objects that are important to her, her body being one of them. Unafraid to be a tchotchke she is willing and able to collect objects that bring her pleasure. She indulges in luxury as she conquers the pleasure that she wants and deserves. She has no feelings in these moments and makes no sound, the feeling is private, a Child of Eve in the hallway outside would never know of the decadence that she is involved with. The need to accept and understand the self as one with the body is imperative to the mission of the CounTess. Unlike the many Children of Eve who bear semblance to her, she feels no shame. This manifesto represents how she sees her body although she realizes it may seem confusing to some Children of Eve. She asks that if a Child of Eve stumbles upon this video that they do not judge her body by its marked social or biological potential. She implores Children of Eve to think of her flesh as the tchotchke in great-grandmother’s den. The taste, smell, and appropriation of this object will bring them such pleasure. Ultimately her manifesto asserts to herself that she is attractive, an object of choice on Canal Street or under the L train.

Daniel Ghastin - Interarts Performance, BFA (2016)

Facebook Isn't Me

Rachel Bissonnette - History of Art (2016)

Lu Zhang - BBA/Stats (2016)

Perception of Expression

Drop-crotch pants. Converse. Punk kid. Gender can't be identified, but distrust can.

Ashley Schwedt - Social Work (2015)

Evan Bruetsch - Architecture (2015)

Doing what I love- cooking for a ton of people I love.

Jean Rafaelian - Cognitive Science & History of Art (2016)

Everyone is ever-changing; getting to know someone is the constant incorporation of their infinitesimal personae into a Bayesian model of who they are. This image shows that every identity is a synthesis of many individual moments of self expression by overlaying many days worth of self-portraits.

Cameron Bothner - Linguistics (2015)

Kelsey Messian - Art History, Museum Studies (2016)

Gabby Thoma - Art History, Psychology (2014)

Amanda Schoonover - Environmental Health, Medical Anthropology (2015)

Uncanny Valley

Since I was little I've been self-conscious about the asymmetry in my face. However, as these images show, perfect symmetry isn't quite all it's cracked up to be either.

Sarah Kang - Microbiology and History of Art (2015)

Things of Mine

Sydney Cavanagh - Art and Design (2016)

Yurong Wu - Architecture (2015)


My sister is one of the few people from whom I have nothing to hide. She knows everything about me, so I always feel myself with her. She helps me be honest about who I am.

Lauren Plawecki - History of Art (2016)

identity is multifaceted

Lexi Harounian - History of Art & Museum Studies (2017)

release your inner warrior

Lexi Harounian - History of Art & Museum Studies (2017)


"The biggest problem with education is that we stopped inspiring our kids how to learn, and why they need to keep learning." Larry Liu as we were waiting to board the subway.

David Song - Sound Engineering and Computer Science (2017)

Rush Hour Bike Ride

"I was walking on 6th Avenue during rush hour and I saw this old man weaving through all the traffic on his bike, the fastest way to travel through Manhattan."

David Song - Sound Engineering and Computer Science (2017)