Images from “The Mask” series on display now at the Ciao Gallery, Jackson Hole, WY
Some of my best friends are models. And for reasons that are perfectly understandable (at least to them and myself), many of my friends have no problem getting naked in front of me and my lens.
It’s called “The Mask” series. It began with a self-portrait I’d taken more than 50 pounds ago. I was in my mid twenties and every ab on my tummy was identifiable. My face was hidden, but that was about it. The image went on to win a photo contest, juried no less by a well-known cowboy photographer who essentially validated me as a “real” art photographer. I mean, there were many female nudes in the line-up to judge, all of which were esthetically more pleasant to gaze at, yet this gentleman found the image of me and my grizzled self (yes, even at that age I’d say “grizzled” would apply) as a work of art. The photograph stood on its own and unless you’d shared a locker room shower with me at the time, no one would have known it was me. It was extremely freeing.
Once the magazine came out with that image, I began to field requests from others who asked if I could make a photograph of them in similar fashion … face obscured, yet unclothed … unmasked if you will. It’s ironic how we can sometimes become more true to ourselves while our public identity is hidden. I’m not suggesting Batman would have been an even bigger sensation letting it all hang free in the breeze with just a cape and his face disguised, but to the average person on the street, a little anonymity can help produce expressions and gestures far more interesting and honest, when we can be our “hidden” self.
If you don’t believe that the unclad human form is a viable subject for art, then you’re here for the wrong reasons. If you believe nudity is inherently offensive, you might as well leave with the afore-mentioned perverts. However, if you do “get it” (very subjective I know), feel free to check out the Ciao Gallery’s exhibit “Naturally Nude” which is happening today in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.