At the end of 2012 I joined the project “The Mask Series”, an initiative started by Shane Balkowitsch, which is an international collaboration of artists working with the wet plate collodion process photographing the same object, in this case, a Czech M10 gas mask (see image above).
The goal for this series is to raise awareness of the historic wet plate technique as an art form. This will allow artists that normally do not have a chance to share their work to participate in a collaborated effort with other artists from around the world. The ultimate goal is to have the collection shown in a gallery as a complete body of work or have it published in a book.
The prop that must be used in each image is a vintage Czech M10 gas mask. This ambiguous prop from decades ago is perfect for this series. It levels the playing field for each artist. It also highlights and allows the perspective, composition and personal taste of the artist to be the focus. Some artists may find it an inspiration, while others may view it to be a crutch or hindrance. The end result will be the unique vision of each individual artist.
Gas masks have historically been used to protect people and citizens usually in times of war. In other situations a mask can be used to hide the identity of its wearer. The gas mask is also very symbolic to the wet plate process since many hazardous and caustic chemicals are used during the development of the images and most wet plate studios use gas masks on a daily basis. This type of vintage gas mask also has a presence and cannot be easily ignored. If the prop used for this process was a shirt or hat for instance, someone may not draw a line from one artist image to another’s. With the gas mask, the viewer will quickly realize the common thread amongst the pieces of work, and can then identify and understand the purpose of the collection.
If you have any questions, comments or want to participate as an artist, please contact:
4419 Centurion Dr.
Bismarck, ND 58504 USA
Or check his website about the project.