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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#20 – Behind the Mask – Removing My Mask #2

My second experiment was using a peel-off ‘Activated Charcoal Mask’. The application was very very messy. The mask had a consistency of treacle and was very thick once applied. Once the mask had dried (which took a long time), I started to peel it off in front of the camera.

The mask did not peel as easily as the reviews and instructions indicated. It stuck fast to all the fine hairs on my face, ripping them out as the mask came off in pieces. The pain in my face in the images below is genuine and was excruciating at times. The experience reminded me of the way Doy explained Claude Cahun’s writings:

“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.”

– (Doy, 2007: 42)

Previous blog post on Claude Cahun

I felt as though my whole skin was being torn off as I removed the mask. And I was unable to remove it all without the intervention of soap and water. The mask and my skin felt inseparable. Symbolically, this really impacted on me. I felt quite sad that my face was not fully revealed. It is like I was still holding something back after the mask had come off. I want to reveal the true me behind the face, but am beginning to realise that some masks need additional help to be removed.

After this experiment and the whole mask had been removed, I suffered an allergic reaction to the mask. My face was left red and blotchy, and felt like it was burning up. It was as though my skin was adversely reacting to the removal of the mask. My skin felt raw and naked, very much like I feel when I remove the mask I hide behind.

This reinforced my ethical decisions to do this to myself only and not to risk an issue with another person.


Doy, G. (2007). Claude Cahun: A Sensual Politics of Photography. London: I. B. Tauris & Company, Limited.

#BehindtheMask #november2017 #TheMasksWeWear

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