top of page
  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Informing Contexts – Masks

A mask hides the face of the wearer from view. They can be worn to cover all or part of the face.  They both obscure and project our identity. We use them to disguise ourselves, to amuse those around us or to frighten others.

But a mask may be worn to hide how we feel or something we wear when we present ourselves to the rest of the world.

Mask XIII 2006 by John Stezaker born 1949

Figure 1: John Stezaker. Mask XIII. 2006

British artist John Stezaker is fascinated with the hidden face.  His Mask series saw him use postcards of landscapes, grottoes and waterfalls cover the faces of actors and others.  The postcards were placed like masks across the faces.

Every day we are bombarded with images of people. The intent is overrun with selfies and pictures of celebrities.  These photographs are consciously posed and posted; filters are used to enhance and improve how we look.  They smooth our skin and make us look younger.  We present to the work the image of us that we wan them to see.  In effect we are doing this wearing a mask.

The Bunnyman Massacre horror film of 2011 portrays a man in a rabbit costume as the perpertrator of murder and crimes.   I do not want to create scary images, but would rather produce images that amuse and entertain my audience.


Figure 2: Edward Weston. Civilian Defense (with Peaches). 1942

Edward Weston photographed his wife (figures 2 and 3) in her government-issued gas mask after the bombing of Pearl Harbour the year earlier. He chose the traditional female nude being compromise by the necessity of war and staying alive.

Photographs of people wearing gas masks can either be interpreted as creepy or fetishism.  I would like to obtain a gas mask for use, but I want to create striking images that are beautiful or amusing in their narrative.


Figure 3: Edward Weston. Civilian Defense. 1942

Other photographers who have used gas masks in quite a sinister way include Michel Valentino’s controversal series ‘Wasteland’ (figure 4).


Figure 4: Michel Valentino. Wasteland Series. c.2008

And now, in parts of the world, gas masks are becoming a fashion accessory and are starting to appear in fashion photography (figure 5).


Figure 5: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images. Gas Mask Fashion. 2014

The design above was created at the Zhejiang University of Science and Technology School of Apparel Design, Beijing, China and presented during their Graduates Show.

In China the quality of air pollution is of great concern to the population.  This design was born from that concern.  But, as with all fashion items, the aesthetics of the accessories are all encompassing, so the mask may not actually be functional yet.

This shows me that there is the potential for gas masks to become more fashionable and that any images I take could slot into the fashion genre in the future.

I intend to explore the use of masks in images to see if this changes the performance of the subject in the photograph.  I know that for myself, having a mask to hide behind will give me confidence to be confident in front of the camera.  I will be experimenting with different masks and subjects over the next few weeks.


Figure 1: Figure 1: Stezaker, J. Mask XIII. 2006. From Tate. 2017. ‘Mask XIII’, John Stezaker, 2006 | Tate. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 08 March 2017].

Figure 2: Weston, E. Civilian Defense (with Peaches). 1942. From un regard oblique . 2017. un regard oblique – Edward WESTON :: Civilian Defense (with Peaches),…. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 08 March 2017].

Figure 3: Weston, E. Civilian Defense. 1942. From Perry Tatman Learning Log. 2017. V&A Visit – 24th August 2016 | Perry Tatman Learning Log. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 08 March 2017].

Figure 4: Michel Valentino. Wasteland Series. c.2008. From designboom | architecture & design magazine. 2017. wasteland exhibition by michel valentino. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 08 March 2017].  …

Figure 5: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images. Gas Mask Fashion. 2014. From designboom | architecture & design magazine. 2017. wasteland exhibition by michel valentino. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 April 2017].

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Informing Contexts – The Viewer

“Every viewer is going to get a different thing. That’s the thing about painting, photography, cinema.” – David Lynch REFERENCE Lynch, D. From BrainyQuote. (2017). Photography Quotes – BrainyQuote. [o

Informing Contexts – Portfolio Choices

The final choices and decisions made for my work in progress portfolio are presented below. Figure 1: Sutherst 2017 My portfolio (figure 1) has a clean layout designed to be very much like a box of pr

Informing Contexts – Next Steps

Having resolved this body of work, I am off in a slightly different direction as the next module begins. Picking up on comments made when I presented the naked portrait a few weeks ago, that I photogr


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page