8″ x 10″ Ambrotype
On receiving the mask for Shane’s project, I found myself focusing towards the glass eye pieces, staring through these, leading me to the darkness of this mask .
Thinking a mask, a gas mask. To me this mask just said “cliche” Thousands of mask images ran through my mind but all spoke the same word, yet none spoke to me about the feeling of having to actually wear this, as a slim chance of saving my life. Mulling over it for a week, putting it to the back of my mind but not wanting to let Shane down, I had it already covered, after all the day I received it. I plonked it on a friend of mine She wore it, I photographed her wearing it. But it was a cop out .
Then I found the inspiration for this mask, from a time when these masks spoke a different word and that word was “quick” and this word came from Wilfred Owens poem “DULCE ET DECORUM EST” a poet who had to wear a mask to save his life. I remembered an old decaying tram, sitting outside Washingtons air museum of the North East. A gift from German city and this I thought would make a potent beast for this mask… Bent double, like an old beggar under a sack, Peering through the ground glass, focusing on that haunting tram. Positioning the tram so its the first thing you see, Trying to make It shout out. Like its going to run you down, a sense of urgency a sense of fear. I’m trying to create, Just like the cry of “Gas! Gas! quick, boys!” Placing the mask trying to blend it to this decaying tram,making it hard to see just like “An ecstasy of fumbling” for the eyes. Giving the intended feeling of urgency… I hope I did what I intended, Thanks Shane and to the others involved in this project
“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs And towards our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep.
Many had lost their boots But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas!Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.”
Wilfred Owen 8 October 1917 – March, 1918