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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#7 – Behind the Mask – Self Portrait


In order to immerse myself fully in the project, I decided that my set of images would be the first to be taken.  These images would then go on to be the ‘face’ of the project on social media platforms and my website.

For me, having these images taken was a huge deal. I am not someone who likes being in front of the camera.  If a camera is pointed my way, I become a fool and act like a clown in front of it. People have come to expect this of me, it is part of my mask.

Being judged by a photograph (or feeling that I will be) is not something that I relish. The representation of me in the image is just that, a representation.  It is not who I am.  It is who I let you see.

The first part of the process is to write on the mask. The process was quite cathartic and overwhelming at the same time.  Seeing the words on the mask was very emotional. These are things that I would not have revealed about myself before.

But, the process was essential.  How could I ask others to do this if I wouldn’t do this myself?

My next step was to set up the studio lighting and I co-opted my friend (and studio owner), Alley to help me take the actual shots.

Shot 1 was easy.  It is in my comfort zone.  I even managed not to mess around in front of the camera like I would normally.  My intention was to show how I present myself to the world. It is what I look like in my classroom at school, where my confidence is a front and I am always enthusiastic and lively.

Putting the mask on was odd. I chose to put my glasses over the top and I had the spare elastic across my eyes.  It was uncomfortable to wear.  I did not wear my hair over the top. By going through the process of discovery in this project, I have been confronting things that I find difficult and I wanted my mask to be uncomfortable, so wearing it as I did enable me to portray this.

The hardest image to take is the final one. I hide this version of me from the world. Revealing it even to my friend was hard.  The process I needed to go through was to discuss what makes me put on the mask and what I hide behind.  Alley continued to shoot whilst I was talking and explaining what was going on in my head.  The image is uncomfortable for me to look at.  This is the version of me that I keep hidden.

The images are powerful.  The masked and unmasked images evoke feelings in me that I am just beginning to understand and interpret.  The whole session was therapeutic and I felt a level of relief explaining my thoughts to my good friend.

I will be using the images in the promotion of the project online. This is even though I don’t like to see myself in a photograph.  The dissemination of these images is part of my healing process and so is a necessary part of the work.

I am able to appreciate how my volunteers will feel during their shoots. This helps me to help them during the process. I now feel better prepared for their planned shoots.

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