This collection is part of an on-going series that visually and thematically explores the threatening image of the gas mask, exploring how this can link to subconscious fears relating to isolation, loneliness and the end of the world. The central narrative of this series can be simplified into a single sentence – what would you do and how would you feel if you were the last person on earth?
When I first thought about this idea, my original intention was to create a series of photographs as a one off project that were visually inspired by Shane Meadows spectacular film ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’. As I thought more about this idea it progressively changed to become (in my mind anyway) more about the conscious and subconscious fears the image of the gas mask can evoke. The irony I thought was that this object, this mask which is designed specifically to save lives, seemed capable of inspiring fear, dread and anxiety due to its physical appearance.
So the narrative of this piece evolved to explore not only the menace the image of the gas mask can create, but also the inner most thoughts and longings the last person on earth might have. Would someone living in a barren, isolated and potentially toxic environment long for the simple things of life? Would they want to get dressed up in their Sunday best? Would they miss the communal simplicity of sitting round a table and sharing stories? Would they miss a good cup of tea? These are some of the questions I think this collection visually addresses through my choice of locations, costume and the use of props.
From a technical and aesthetic point of view, I have tried to create a visual contrast between the two sets of images. The outer thought processes of my subject (or real world) are conveyed through desaturated colour and isolated open spaces. I have tried to visually convey the inner (or subconscious) thoughts of my subject in stark, high contrast black and white. I achieved this through strobist lighting techniques, using a single off camera flash to create dramatic areas of light and shadow.
As I stated earlier, this collection is part of an on-going series that will continue to further explore similar themes and concepts. Special thanks must be given to Sam Jones (http://www.jonescophotography.com/) who is as much a consummate professional in front of camera as he is when on the other side of the lens. I hope you enjoy Gas Mask Collection Series 1.