(Self-Portrait as My Uncle Bryan Gregory), 2003

Gillian Wearing, Self Portrait as My Uncle Bryan Gregory, 2003

"I'm always trying to find ways of discovering new things about people, and in the process discover more about myself."6

Gillian Wearing, Self Portrait as My Uncle Bryan Gregory, 2003

Gillian Wearing's (b. Birmingham, United Kingdom, 1963-) artistic territory is documentary portraiture. Her works explore the differences between public and private life, the individual and society, voyeurism and exhibitionism, and fiction and fact.7 She was part of the Young British Artists, a group that achieved international attention for their often-sensational and shocking creations.

Wearing's videos and photographs cover a wide variety of people and expose the complexities of human relationships. Some of her works focus on her family and friends, others on strangers—men, women and children of the streets; victims of abuse; and alcoholics or drug addicts. In her family artworks, Wearing investigates the dynamics between relatives. "I was interested in the idea of being genetically connected to someone but being very different. There is something of me, literally, in all those people—we are connected, but we are each very different,"8 she has said.

Self Portrait as My Uncle Bryan Gregory (2003) is part of the photographic series Album. Album consists of seven autobiographical photographs in which the artist reconstructed old family snapshots by superimposing masks that she creates of her grandfather, mother, father, uncle, and brother as young adults or adolescents onto her own face. Then she took a picture of herself wearing the mask. To depict her characters, she employed the mask and costumes, makeup, props, and lighting. She collaborated with a gifted team who cast, sculpted, painted, and even applied hair to the masks.

Wearing begins the process of creating a mask by making a detailed clay model that transforms a two-dimensional photograph into a three-dimensional mask. With a team of assistants, a prosthetic silicon mask is built that the artist inhabits. It is an expensive process since each mask costs more than €11,600 to produce, and forty rolls of film are required to capture the perfect image of Wearing inside it.9


6. Consky, Lauren, "Gillian Wearing's Facial Features," The McGill Tribune, Tuesday, March 18, 2003

7. Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Collection Online: Gillian Wearing

8. Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Arts Curriculum Online: Gillian Wearing, Trauma and the Uncanny, (Quoted in Jennifer Bayles, "Acquisitions: Gillian Wearing," Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, [accessed January 25, 2010].)

9. Matt Lippiatt, "Keeping it in the Family: Gillian Wearing interview," The Times, UK, October 3, 2006


  • Look carefully at this photo. What do you notice?
  • The title of this work is Self Portrait as My Uncle Bryan Gregory. Why do you think the artist calls this a self-portrait? How could that be the case? In what ways are you similar to your family members? In what ways are you unique?
  • Explain to the class that the artist reconstructed old family snapshots by recreating a lifelike mask of the members of her family and even herself as a teenager or as a toddler. Tell them that to depict her characters she employs costumes, makeup, props, lighting, and the very special masks. Have students look at the image again and discuss further. If they look very closely they will see that the artist’s eyes are the evidence of her inside the mask. How does this make you feel? What is your reaction to the work? Does knowing the process and that Gillian Wearing is behind the mask change your opinion of this photograph?