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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#30 – Behind the Mask – Removing My Mask #4


Drawing inspiration from Gillian Wearing’s work involving masks (PREVIOUS BLOG POST), I decided to attempt to cast a mask of my own face and get other people to wear it in photographs.

With the help of a friend (Alison), I trialled covering my face with chromatic alginate. Following on from previous allergic reaction issues, I researched and chose a make that is both non-toxic and hypoallergenic.  The alginate changes colour as it sets (from pink to white) to ensure that the correct amount of time is given for the material to set.

Alison and I made sure that we had prepared everything well in advance as the material is fast setting. We completed a trial run and found the material to set incredibly quickly, even when made with cold water. We decided to make the mask in parts.

The other complication is that I have an irrational fear of things going into my eyes and I panic if I feel I cannot breathe. This made the process more challenging. This was especially true when the alginate went up my nose slightly. I panicked and ripped the mask off my mouth (which had to be redone). We kept the alginate away from my eyes to prevent another panic reaction.

The first mask (above) did not have any stability or integrity. It broke up before it could be strengthened. The whole mask ended up looking like white blancmange.

I then decided to retry using strips of bandage soaked in alginate. This was pressed and held against my face and produced a more stable mask. The alginate was easier to control and did not go anywhere unexpected, so this time there were no panic episodes.

In front of the camera wearing the mask I felt invincible. The mask was very powerful and quite stiff to remove. I removed the mask to reveal a severe allergic reaction to the bandage material used.

The inside of the mask is too rough to create a mask of my face. I would like to get a replica mask made of my face but am concerned about potential further allergic reactions and panic attacks if the moulding material gets in my eyes or up my nose. I intend to investigate professional mask making services and to have a discussion with them before any moulding process takes place.

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