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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Final Major Project: Considering Others – Claude Cahun

‘The attraction of masks [is] for those who do not want to live with their intentions clearly legible on their faces”

– (Doy 2007: 41).

Doy (2007) explains that in her short essay ‘Carnaval en Chambre’ 1926, that Cahun considers the use of masks when interpreting issues surrounding identity and the self. We hide our true selves behind masks which could be considered as hiding our true intentions and emotions from others. We all do this.  We use social media and other social networking sites as a tool to mask our identities. We only allow others to see what we want them to see.

“In Cahun’s self-portraits the constant interrogation of the self via disguise and distortion . . . reminds us of the gap between the way Cahun looks at us (her gaze) and to us (her appearance) . . . For Cahun, the photographic self-portrait is itself a mask that extends and confounds the self as a subject in the making.”

– (Lusty, 2007: 82)

Doy goes on to discuss Cahun’s ideas stating that “in front of the mirror one day, you put on your mask a little too enthusiastically and it bites your skin. After your festival you lift up a little corner of it to have a look; you discover to your horror that the flesh and its concealment have become inseparable. With a bit of saliva, you stick it down again. Similarly, with make-up. When you try to rub it off, you remove your skin too. When we dismantle everything to see how it works it loses its power to astonish, but when we put its make-up on again we regain our dreams, our desires, and our delusions. The mask disguises our alienation.” (Doy, 2007: 42). This concept is interesting to me and explains how I feel. Cahun is suggesting that we can never remove a mask completely and that there will always be some of the mask left behind. We become our mask. We assume the persona of the mask. The word ‘persona’  is derived from Latin, where it originally referred to a mask (, 2017).

We hide behind makeup, smiles, and filters on social media. This practice is ubiquitous. Everywhere we look there is another selfie with another filter; cute animal ears, large eyes, and smoother skin. Why do we feel the need for this? I hope to explore this through my project by including self-portraits and evaluating the reaction and emotions surrounding them.


Doy, G. 2007. Claude Cahun: A Sensual Politics of Photography. London: I. B. Tauris & Company, Limited. (2017). Latin translation to English of ‘persona’ – [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Feb. 2018].

Lusty, N. (2007). Surrealism, feminism, psychoanalysis. London: Routledge.

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