Masquerade Mask Photo Essay

Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 8.40.23 AM
Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 8.40.23 AM
Justin Pullins
December 10, 2012
Scarlett Letter/Juno Creative Project

For this project, I chose to focus on the theme of identity. To me, this was the perfect theme to explore because it is truly an universal aspect of life. Nearly everyone, at some point in their lives, struggle with the concept of who they are to themselves, to societies, and otherwise. After brainstorming various ideas, I found that the best way to explore this theme would be through the power of masks.

The concept of a mask is a fascinating one. The very point of wearing one is to conceal your face, or what many consider to be their true selves. Sometimes they can be worn for sheer enjoyment, while other times they are attempts to cover the truth. Masks can be very subtle, or very intricate, bland or expressive, direct or decipherable. Because of these reasons, I believe that masks would be the perfect way to portray Hester's story.

Hester's arc throughout the book is one that is often masked by fear, hidden passion, lust, and secrets. As she struggles with these inner conflicts, as well as her identity in Puritan Boston, the masks tell her tale.

It was my belief that the best way to explore the multiple dynamics of the theme I chose was to focus specifically on one tale. Because of this, I focus solely on The Scarlett Letter. However, as Juno is also the tale of a character's identity changing and shifting, many connections can be made between the two stories.

The process in creating this collection was a very thorough one. Each mask took roughly 60 minutes to conceive an idea, create a design, and execute it. Throughout this process, I often struggled with the concept of literalism versus artistic expression. I often wonder how easy should the mask be able to comprehend, the story each mask should tell, and the way it should do it. No aspect of the final mask and corresponding photo, whether it's the lighting, the mask used, or the placement of the mask, was left up to chance. Every aspect was analyzed and calculated.

Ultimately, I hope the collection can speak for itself, and can be used as an additional component for future readers of The Scarlett Letter, which will help them understand the novel in a different way.

Click here to enjoy the slideshow.

Description of the Masks:
#1- "Adulteress Only"
This is where we begin our journey with Hester. She is, to many, an adulteress and nothing more. The "A" across her face represents the only thing that the Puritans see in her. The full mask represents the fact that Hester's true self is being covered and marred by scandal.
#2- "Peeks of Truth"
After public embarrassment, Hester speaks to her jealous, estranged husband Roger Chillingworth. In this audience, Hester is desperately concealing her secret, which is represented by the darkness that covers the majority of the mask. This is the secret that keeps her back. However, across the mask are lighter colors; the truth is trying to appear.
#3- "The Adulteress' Guilty Pleasure"
The description of Hester's sewing was told in great detail. Because of these, I thought that the depiction of Hester's sewing should be very subtle and intricate. This is a half mask, because here, Hester is the most truthful.
#4- "Alone, on the Scaffold"
Hester's scaffold confessions with her lover, Dimmesdale, are moments of intense passion. The dichotomy of the public Hester and the private Hester meets here, and so this mask is to represent this.
#5- "The Letter Defined"
Throughout the whole story, Hester's Scarlett letter is constantly being redefined, whether this is by Hester or others. Because of this constant identity crisis, I wanted this piece to display the Scarlett letter fully. However, the black and brown stains represent the Scarlett letter fading and morphing into something else.
#6- "The Sunshine Does Not Love You"
In one of their private moments in the forrest, Pearl tells her mother, "...the sunshine does not love you". This really struck me, and so I thought it was a perfect thing to represent in a mask. The yellow is meant to represent the sun, with the black streaks representing the sunshine's hatred of Hester. The trees are present in order to give us some setting.
#7- "The Façade for the Governor"
During her meeting at the governor's mansion, Hester is desperate to make herself seem appealing and able, so that she may keep Pearl. This mask is meant to be very intricate and detailed, as Hester is trying to create a false image of herself. However, the Scarlett "A" remains.
#8- "Promise of the New World"
This is mask is meant to represent the part of the story in which Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl plan their escape. The mask here is meant to represent the new world, with the color scheme meant to have an old-world sense. Also, the mask itself was meant to have a sinister look, as the promise of the new world are often misleading.
#9- "A Brook Ahead, the Fear Behind"
I wanted to shoot this photo in a way that differed from all the others. Therefore, we this mask from behind. Most of the mask is a blue, to represent the calming powers of the brook. However, the Scarlett red continues to bleed down, infiltrating the blue.
#10- "Collision"
Hester's tale is one of great inner conflict. All throughout the novel, there are struggles of identity, and because of this, I want to manifest this is a mask. This mask specifically details Hester's plight during Dimmesdale's final speech, the very speech in which they are planning to escape afterwards. During the sermon, Hester's emotions and inner turmoil runs rampant, which is the reason why colors clash within this piece.

#11- "Serenity"
Upon her later years, Hester seems to have reach a sense of great peace in her life. She no longer is subject to the judgment that has marred most of her story, and is quite content living out the remainder of her days helping in the ways that she can. Though the remnants of her Scarlett "A" are still present, it now represents peace and security in the identity. This is the last "mask" that Hester wears in her lifetime.
#12- "Gash of Shame/Gash of Hope"
The Scarlett Letter ends with Hester's death. However, Hester's life lives on. This final piece is a representation of Hester both in the after life and before the events of the book. Within Puritan society, Hester vastly different from the demographic. She shines brightly in the world while others tend to blend in. Therefore, there is a streak of yellows and reds amongst the darker colors. This streak symbolizes not only society's perception of shame versus Hester's perception of hope, but it also represents Hester herself, as she has always been the powerful force against the established order.