This series is ongoing
Please click on thumbnails below to view larger images
Recently I came across paper-dolls in a catalog, which made me ponder the similarities between paper dolls with our earthly bodies. Both are fragile and not meant to last very long. This inspired me to create paper dolls using copies from my collection of original historic tintypes. I love the mystery of these old tintypes because there is no way of knowing who these people were or who made the images. I have often thought of incorporating some of them into my artwork. I planned to make particular scenes with the “paper dolls,” but each image took on a life of its own and I ended up with something quite different. I like to imagine that the spirits of the people in the vintage photographs may have had something to do with guiding me. Who knows?
This image above was created as a continuation of the paper dolls series but also submitted as my contribution to the Mask Series (http://sharoncol.balkowitsch.com/mask.htm)
I was interested in the challenge the Mask series presented. I wondered if I could come up with an idea for something unique. I looked at what others had created and saw some very interesting ideas, but I wasn’t happy with the ideas I was coming up with. Several months went by and I was really procrastinating because I hadn’t thought of something I was happy with.
In the summer of 2014 I had started working on a personal series using paper dolls so I thought I’d try to incorporate that series with the Mask series. The paper-doll series (which is ongoing) came about when I saw some paper dolls for sale in a catalogue. It made me ponder the similarities between paper dolls with our earthly bodies. Both are fragile and not meant to last very long. I was inspired to create paper dolls using copies from my collection of original historic tintypes which I’d bought in antique shops. I love the mystery of old tintypes because there’s usually no way of knowing who the people were or who made the images. I’d often thought of incorporating some of them into my artwork in some way. I’d planned on making particular scenes with the paper dolls, but each image took on a life of its own and I ended up with something quite different than initially planned. I knew I didn’t have a vintage image with a gas mask so I recruited my daughter to be my model to make some images. (see images 1, 2 and 3) I adjusted the digital images in Photoshop to lower the contrast and then printed them out with my printer. I carefully cut them out and made several paper dolls (see image 4).
The concept or “idea” is that all the girls wearing masks are a group of school girls having their class picture made. To me they symbolize society and social conformity and how we’re taught to try to fit in and be like everyone else. The girls are safe behind their masks, but we can’t see who they really are. The mask hides the truth. One girl does not wear the mask which leaves her vulnerable and exposed to the gas. Nobody notices her death. They are just carrying on with their class photo as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Society doesn’t embrace those who are different and doesn’t usually want to be bothered with the truth – perhaps it’s too painful to be confronted with the truth? Anyway…that’s the basic idea behind the image. I hope the picture tells a story to the viewer. I’d be interested to hear other people’s interpretations of the picture before reading my explanation.
To make the actual tintype, I set up the paper dolls on a table in my studio. To stand them up, I mounted each one on a pipe cleaner with a small piece of cardboard as the base. I spread black sand over the table to cover the cardboard bases. I made a couple of test plates using my strobe, but I wasn’t happy with the lighting. I also decided I wanted to try to add a misty, gas effect. So I switched my lighting to (2) 400w fluorescent bulbs and a longer exposure. I used some scrunched up aluminum foil to create the mist by moving it during the exposure. I’m happy with the effect. Here is a link to a video by MarOPhotos of the setup and me talking about it. https://youtu.be/ip7oOxZuf_g
I would like to thank Shane for coming up with this idea for the Mask Series. It really was an interesting and challenging experience to try to create an image incorporating both the Mask and my own ideology.