Saturday, March 20, 2010

365/78 We all wear masks

365/78 We all wear masks

Fezzik: Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?

Man in Black: Oh no, it's just that they're terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.

The Princess Bride

You know, I had this whole idea of masks laid out in my head this evening. A topic to write about with a pointed photo to assist it. A discussion of the power of masks and their effect on us emotionally when saddled within a photograph.

I tried. I really tried.

I just couldn't get into it.

I keep staring at this mask my kids got from the Denver Zoo. It's a tiger mask, I guess. Flimsy and flexible and feigning a beastly growl. It barely fit upon my face when I thought up this crackpot idea. What this mask really turned out to be was creepy, with sunken, cut-out eyes that reminded me of Michael Myers in Halloween or Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th. Sinister and psychotic it was, staring straight into the camera while the flash clicked and whined.

I mean, look at it. How would you feel being approached by a man in that mask, bearded and disheveled, long, ratty hair, saying nothing to you, nothing to anyone. Just a heavy, heated breath wheezing out from beneath the mask.

Creepy I say. Creepy.

Masks can be used to invoke a directed emotion, both from the mask wearer and the unlucky viewer of the disguise. Masks can be used to shield us from the hazards of the emotion that lies beneath. Masks segregate and accentuate all at once. No special skills required.

I've been thinking about masks lately and how I can use them in my photography. Originally, it began with wanting to only hide emotion, restrict it from view and accentuate the one narrowed feeling that I wanted the viewer to see. I'd done this before with my photos involving plastic wrap, invoking a sense of entrapment and suffocation. I want to do it with other images now. Other feelings.

For now, I'll just start with this: a simple, plastic mask meant for kids, staring you down and sizing you up. Maybe you're a next meal, maybe you're just a toy. Maybe you're nothing worth tangling with, nothing worth worrying about.

Guess it all depends on how you look upon the mask.

In the end, we wear them, however uncomfortable, to affect a mood, a moment. In the end, we will continue to use them however we need to get the job done.

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