behind the mask
In a city renowned for its masks, a Mardi Gras tradition, residents of New Orleans now go out in public wearing masks of another kind and for a different purpose. Shot entirely on the iPhone 11 Pro Max, “behind the mask” is a series of portraits of New Orleanians wearing masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It explores the requisite mask wearing in public caused by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
Through these portraits I strive to expose an intimate side of the subject while simultaneously revealing the larger cultural context. How are we going to adapt to this new world? How can we make a meaningful connection with another person with our faces covered? The portraits have each been given a title consisting of two emotions. This is to show how impossible it is to discern what the person behind the mask is feeling.
Masks create isolation by causing the inability to read facial expressions. If you are unable to perceive these non-verbal nuances, then you behave as if you have no understanding of what others are trying to convey, or even know what is expected of you. In medical literature this inability is called “social-emotional agnosia.” It severely limits normal social interactions and produces stress and anxiety. Feelings can easily be misinterpreted. In this pandemic world, emotions can be fragile and extra care needs to be taken when dealing with others.
Perhaps if we are aware of the effects of wearing masks, we can observe our behavior and be more mindful ofour interactions with others. Compassion and kindness are needed more so now than ever.
"Behind the mask beats a loving heart, willing to save others.” – Helen Munson, author