Masks Unmasked

Staff writer Jordan Schilling looks into the photography process and the insight it can provide to societal issues.

I walked into CVS on a Saturday night and noticed a mask to my right. It instantly caught my attention — the red, white and blue colors intrigued me. I knew I could photograph this mask and create something really powerful based on the colors and facial expression. I wanted to tell a story about identity and the way society causes us to view each other differently.

Photography allows people to visually convey their thoughts for an audience, and it has allowed me to discover myself and grow as an artist. I want to challenge you to photograph your own life. With all the mayhem going on in the world, it is sometimes nice to take a step back, breathe and reflect. Find a muse that allows you to escape and be your true self.

With “Disparate Pairing,” I wanted to convey a message about fixating on what we see on the outside so much that we overlook what is on the inside. The subject is wearing a mask and holding sunflowers in one hand. The frightening mask portrays the subject as intimidating, and the flowers convey his positive qualities. I wanted to depict our tendency to “cross the street” — to avoid those who might appear daunting despite the good qualities they might have overshadowed by the way they look.

“Multiple Meaning” tells a different story. Football is America’s sport. Entire towns close down on game days so people can support their favorite teams. It is just one of the traditions that shows how powerful our nation can be when joined together over a common passion. This past election contradicted what we have come to know as a “unified nation.” During the presidential debates, one candidate wore an American flag pin and the other did not. Clinton was ridiculed for not conveying her nationalism — an ironic accusation given that she was running for president. The colors represented on the flag, red, white and blue, can also be seen on the mask in the photo. They make the mask pop out of the image. The sports jersey and American hat convey the message that, in today’s America, we hide behind the masks we wear.

“Restrictive Mask” is symbolic of discrimination in American society. In the U.S., the majority, white people, want minorities to conform to white culture. The white majority is shown through the white mask in the image, while the minority races are represented by the race of the subject. The attitude of the white majority is rooted in the history of race in America. Ever since 1776, white people believe they are superior to all other races. However, in modern day society, no matter how much we resist the mask society tells us to wear, we as a nation are hiding from the present discrimination.