Paper Masks–From Idea to Photos

Where do ideas come from?  In my book I discuss this some, but overall I find my ideas come from combining other elements in (what I hope are) new and interesting ways.  This shoot began when I decided to go out on a cold night in early January.  I was sitting in a bar and the video for “Du Hast” by Rammstein came on the TVs across the room.  I hadn’t seen the video or heard the song in several years, but in spite of barely being able to hear the song over the crowd it pulled me in.  In the video several members of the band greet a man while wearing masks cut off below the nose.  From the camera’s view these mask wearers get menacing later in the video.  I’ve seen the video a number of times, a friend loved the band and played them a lot, but something about those masks stuck with me this time.  They reminded me of Venetian masks, but aren’t quite those. 

I’d recently had being honest with someone backfire.  This left my mental state primed to think about masks and the way we often hide parts of ourselves from others and why we do so.  Being surrounded by couples enjoying a night out, people looking for love, people looking for lust, and people just looking to forget had the ideas of the various social faces we put on in mind.  The ideas of social masks came together with seeing those actual masks in the video and the idea came to me.  I excitedly described the idea to someone a few minutes later.  She didn’t share my excitement.  The idea I had was to take a photo of someone and use it as a mask.  In effect to mask someone using their own photo.

I first experimented with the idea a couple days later at the end of a shoot with Sarah.  I started basic here by taking a photo of the model’s face and then making a life sized print.  Then I had her wear the photo while taking other photos.  The results showed the idea worth playing with.


So in a mid January shoot with Hannah Perez I worked on the idea more fully.  Instead of just using her face, I decided to take photos of much of her upper body and mix and match the photos on her to get different effects.  I photographed several body parts in different levels of zooms.  The difficult part came from trying to get the photos close to life size.  I didn’t want them exactly right as I wanted the body parts to be a bit smaller or larger than reality, but wanted them close to the real size.  It took some trial and error (and even getting out a tape measure to measure sizes) to get what I wanted.  We tried a few different combinations including taping the photos to Hannah while she knelt along with resting then on her as she laid down.


Overall I’m happy with the results and have some ideas to explore this concept some more later on.

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