Shaun Mullins, Untitled, test shots, 2020.
Part five was the preparation for my fifth assignment, this assignment is a pathway to my final body of work, a self directed project which will be assignment six. My inspiration lead from my essay for assignment four, and through my reading, In Our Own Image, Third Edition, 2010, Fred Ritchin, Between The Eyes, 2005, David Levi Strauss, Photography a Very short Introduction, 2006 by Stuart Edwards and The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, 1959, Erving Goffman. These books started me thinking about how we present ourselves to ourselves and others and how our ‘front’ is a psychologically political motivation and a projection of propaganda.
The idea of a ‘front’ suggested to me a mask, and that we change our mask depending of the situation and circumstances, putting on a different appearance to friends and strangers and even to ourselves. The mask is also very topical as it has become the must have accessory to wear in public, thanks to the COVID pandemic.
I then drew some mind mapping diagrams to link ideas of self and the other with ideas of politics, relationships, propaganda, psychology, identity and presentation.
I have a selection of ‘Venetian’ masks and these objects gave me the idea to use the blanc ‘Venetian’ style masks available from hobby shops for DIY decorating. My idea is that these paper white /blanc masks act as a barrier and also as a blanc canvas to add your/our own ideas on them. It also occurred to me that I had already seen masks used in other artists projects. Ralph Eugene Meatyard, The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater, 1970-72; Gillian Wearing, Confess All On Video. Don’t Worry You Will Be In Disguise. Intrigued? Call Gillian…, 1994; Anna Fox, Zwarte Piet’ portraits, 1993-98; Andrea Serrano, The Klan, 1990; Cindy Sherman’s various projects; Francesca Woodman, Self-Deceit (Rome), 1977-79, Untitled, Providence Rhode Island, 1977-78.
Using my mind mapping diagrams with the idea of masks, I made a number of sketches of possible photographic images to represent my ideas, I then took some experimental photographs and sent them with scanned images of my diagrams and sketches along with a written explanation of my ideas to my Tutor for assignment five. I then had a video conference with my Tutor to discuss my ideas further. My Tutor liked my idea and suggested that I try to expand it by asking for co-operation from friends, family and even fellow students. This may require sending them the masks and asking them to take their own pictures/selfies holding the masks and perhaps a computer tablet or mobile phone for a face of a personality that they identify with. My Tutor suggested that the quality of the images would not necessarily harm my project, as it would only emphasise the effect of the isolation created by both our psychological need for a ‘front’ and the pandemic that we are all currently living through. He also suggested I do some further research and more test shots for lighting, backgrounds, poses etc. To see what will work and not and if they can be replicated by my volunteers (see Tutor’s report). This work I shall do for part six of my course and final project.