Assignment 2 Vice Versa (iii)

Assignment 2 Vice Versa (iii)

Subject C

Gallery 3a (below) shows the subject photographed in his working space, at an Outdoor gallery and against a nondescript background.

This artist’s interest was in popular culture and in particular he painted scenes related to the Star Wars films. While photographing him in his working space he showed me a ‘Stormtrooper’ helmet and I asked to make a portrait with this also (see Gallery 3b below).

The use of masks in portraiture has often been explored. Gillian Wearing (b. 1963) has extensively explored their use in self-portraiture – see for example her ‘un-self-portrait’ (Ewing, 2006: 91) shown in Figure 1. Recently Wearing’s work was shown with that of Claude Cahun (b. 1894) in an exhibition entitled ‘Behind the mask, another mask’ (Grant, 2017). Here the focus on masks:

allows for a foregrounding of the surrealist strategies present in both artist’s work, in which the mask is used as an uncanny object, a surrogate for a body that draws out photograph’s similar qualities of being life-like and embalmed (Grant, 2017).

Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) is an artist who has made extensive use of self-masking in her practice (Searle, 2009; Respini, 2012). A use of masks in portraiture (as opposed to self-portraiture above) is seen in the work of Ralph Eugene Meatyard (b. 1925). Meatyard’s son recalls how one day in 1958 or ’59 his father: ‘walked into a Woolworths store in Lexington, Kentucky … he came upon a set of masks whose features suggested a marriage of Picasso and a jack-o’-lantern’ (Zax, 2011):

“He [Meatyard] immediately liked their properties,” recalls his son Christopher, who was with him at the time. Meatyard père bought a few dozen. “They were latex and had a very unique odor,” says Christopher, now 56. “In the summer they could be hot and humid” (Zax, 2011).

Over the next 13 years ‘Meatyard persuaded a procession of family and friends to don one of the Woolworths masks and pose in front of his camera’ (Zax, 2011) (see fig. 2. – 5.). Some give to Meatyard’s pictures: ‘an existential slant, claiming their ‘theme is the essential otherness and shifting personae of people, even those to whom one is closest’’ (Coleman cited by Durden, 2014: 66).

The photographers Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin have used masks in their practice, for example Figure 6. – 9. Covering more than two decades, some of their work:

began as advertisements, while others first appeared in gallery shows. If the resulting mix — glamorous celebrity portraits, androgynous fine art photos and mannerist fashion editorials — feels a bit schizophrenic, that’s kind of the point. … to show that the distinctions between these genres matter less and less (at least for in-demand photographers …). “Sometimes our work that’s been published as an advertising campaign ends up on the walls of a museum,” she [Inez Van Lamsweerde]noted (Heyman, 2011).

A discussion of Van Lamsweerde and Matadin’s photograph ‘Anastasia’ (see fig. 10.) gives an idea of the complexities that can unfold from the use of even a simple mask in portraiture:

The subject of Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin’s portrait … conjures up a world of transgressions. Exuding an elegant, refined, Versailles-like decadence, … But, above all, there is suggested transgression in the ‘mask’ itself: black/white, male/female, adult/child. … Perhaps, then the mask is yet another’s face – the face, in fact, of the desiring male, which would mean that there is no female present at all, only a mirror reflecting male lust (Ewing, 2006:74).

The artist Marcel Dzama says of his  curated show of masks ‘The Mask Makers’ (Baritaux, 2017) that the theme is ‘Be what you want to be … The mask is freedom, anonymity, a new identity or gender, and bridging us to the afterlife’ (Baritaux, 2017). Among the photographers included are Wolfgang Tillmans (see fig. 11.) and Stan Douglas (see fig. 12).

An indication of the allure of the use of masks in photography is the image chosen for the cover of ‘Art Photography Now’ by Susan Bright (Bright, 2005) – see Figure 13. A historical perspective is seen in Oscar Rejlander’s (b. 1813) ‘The Mask’ (see fig. 14.)

Gallery 3a (click to enlarge) Subject C without mask

Gallery 3b (click to enlarge) Subject C with mask


Baritaux, Zio (2017) marcel dzama curates a show of masks, from cindy sherman to raymond pettibon. At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Bright, Susan (2005) Art Photography Now. London: Thames & Hudson

Durden, Mark (2014) Photography Today. New York: Phaidon

Ewing, William E. (2006) Face. The New PhotographicPortrait. London: Thames & Hudson

Grant, Catherine (2017) ‘All Those Faces’ In: Source. 90. pp. 46 – 47

Heyman, Stephen (2011) ‘Photographers Without Borders’. In: The New York Times [online] At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Respini, Eva (2012) Cindy Sherman. New York: Museum of Modern Art

Searle, Adrian (2009) ‘Photographer Cindy Sherman’s changing faces’. In: The Guardian [online] At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Zax, David (2011) Ralph Eugene Meatyard: The Man Behind the Masks. At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)


Figure 1. Wearing, Gillian (2000) Self Portrait. At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Figure 2. Meatyard, Ralph Eugene (1962) Romance (N.) from Ambrose Bierce # 3. At:×420.jpg (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Figure 3. Meatyard, Ralph Eugene (1970 -72) Lucybelle Crater and photo professor Lucybelle Crater , ca. At:×420.jpg (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Figure 4. Meatyard, Ralph Eugene (1974) from: The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater. At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Figure 5. Meatyard, Ralph Eugene (1974) from: The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater. At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Figure 6. Van Lamsweerde, Inez and Matadin, Vinoodh (n.d) Joan via Inez. At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 7. Van Lamsweerde, Inez and Matadin, Vinoodh (2004) Alexander McQueen. At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 8. Van Lamsweerde, Inez and Matadin, Vinoodh (1997). The Widow (White). At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 9. Van Lamsweerde, Inez and Matadin, Vinoodh (2011) Lady Gaga – V Magazine. At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 10. Van Lamsweerde, Inez and Matadin, Vinoodh (1994/2001) Anastasia. At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 11. Tillmans, Wolfgang (2016) Eleanor / Lutz, portrait. [Inkjet print on paper 40.6 x 30.5 cm] At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 12. Douglas, Stan (1945/2010) Trick or Treat, [Digital fiber print mounted on Dibond aluminium, 110.8 x 83.8 cm] (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 13. Starkey, Hannah (2002) Untitled. [c-type print 122 x 162 cm] At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 14. Rejlander, Oscar (c. 1860) detail from The Mask. [Albumin print] At:–vintage-photography-art-photography.jpg (Accessed on 09.08.17)


One thought on “Assignment 2 Vice Versa (iii)

  1. Pingback: Submission Assignment two ‘Vice versa’ | Photography 1: Identity and Place

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