Masking #156 © Willie Osterman


Masking can be seen in almost every cultural origin in one form or another. As seen in so many aspects of cultures past and present. Ritual Masks, used by indigenous people to capture the soul of the creature represented are also used to transform one’s identity and assume a change of personality. They are also used in various roles in religious and social activities of many cultures. Masks of celebration are worn as disguises during social occasions and in many cultures masks offer protection against the forces of the real and unseen worlds.

This series of photographs forms a cross pollination of those creatures and their sprits that travel beyond boarders and time so that the culmination becomes a living universal myth that we have evolved from and can learn from. For over a year and I have been making portraits of masks from private collections around the region. The end goal is to create a collective of ancient ritual through modern day representations of masks that collectively will create a contemporary vision of the power and universality of the concept of Masking Portraits.

The final presentation will exhibit the collection of Masking Portraits in a linear format of side-by-side portraits that will travel around the museum gallery walls and will allow the masks to gaze back upon on the viewers in a combination of cultural identities that transcends time and place. 

Each portrait is an 11×14 inch one of a kind image using the Wet-Plate Collodion process. Used in this way, this process, invented in 1852, creates images of unique quality and tone that are unique to any other photographic process. The use of the Collodion technique has been chosen due to its unique ability to render color in rich monochrome tones that, in my opinion, enhance the representation of the spirits of the original masks. By eliminating color this process transforms literal representations into what I call mythical transformations. 

Masking © Willie Osterman

Ultimately the final piece will have, depending on availability, well over one hundred portraits. The images will be places on a thin zinc shelf frame-to-frame (or side by side) to form a singular large-scale mythology.

Willie Osterman 

To learn morre about thre work of Willie Osterman please click on his name.

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