Sunday, July 24, 2011

Value of the Mask

One of the most eye-catching gifts I found in Venice were the beautifully, ornate costume masks. Vastly ranging from 10-500 euro, these masks are sold all around Venice; in gift shops, on carts in St. Marks square, even in higher class areas where the masks are more decorative than one can imagine. They are typically worn during the Carnevale di Venezia, a carnival taking place annually, two weeks before Ash Wednesday. As most people know, the whole purpose of a mask is to hide ones identity - particularly their social class when it comes to the Carnevale. Wearing a mask during the carnival instills a sense of equality among social classes, while adding an element of mystery to ones persona; enabling everyone to interact freely. If only I had enough euro and enough luggage space to buy one of those extravagant beauties!

I've used masks a few times in photo shoots and found they subconsciously make the viewer work a little harder to understand the narrative. The image becomes less about the models expression and more about the situation presented to the viewer. It allows the viewer to focus more on mood, surroundings, relationship between subjects, context, even what the mask could represent in the situation. Seeing the Venetian masks definitely inspired me to play with identity and what it means to shield ones face. On top of that, aren't they pretty?!



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