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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Sustainable Prospects – Mask Image Variations

In order to increase the engagement of the viewer with the project, and following feedback received in a webinar, I have experimented with the mask images. I wanted to make the viewer relate to the participants and feel challenged by the person behind the mask.

The masked people images (figure 1), reveal an awful lot about the person. As a viewer, we are not as challenged when we see the person behind the mask.

I chose to photograph each mask on its own (figure 2). The viewer then needs to engage with the images and the words to determine who they think is behind the mask. By not seeing the person’s hair, gender, clothing etc., the viewer wonders about and will make assumptions about the person behind the mask. They have to decide, from their own life experiences, what the person will look like. The reveal leaves the viewer challenged in their perception of what people are hiding. This makes the project more powerful and makes the viewer realise that ‘ordinary’ people suffer too. These people could be someone they know. The message of the project is stronger this way.

I have received comments from viewers that they did not expect the person behind the mask image to look like they did. In some cases, they even guessed the gender and age incorrectly. They have gone on to comment that the images behind the masks are sometimes shocking in their content and they feel a real, genuine concern and connection with the person.

The process of recording each session has remained consistent, with the participants wearing the mask before taking it off to confront their issues. This is still an essential part of the process.

Figure 1 shows the original mask images, which do reveal a lot about the person behind the mask. This results in the viewer not being as invested and engaged in the images. Figure 2 is the masks alone.

Figure 1: Sutherst. Original mask images. 2017

Figure 2: Sutherst. New mask images. 2017

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