Category Archives: Project 2: Masquerade

Project 2: Masquerades: Exercise 3

Exercise 2
Recreate a childhood memory in a photograph. Think carefully about the memory you choose and how you’ll recreate it. You’re free to approach this task in any way you wish.
• Does the memory involve you directly or is it something you witnessed?
• Will you include your adult self in the image (for example, to ‘stand in’ for your childhood self) or will you ask a model to represent you? Or will you be absent from the image altogether? (You’ll look at the work of some artists who have chosen to depict some aspect of their life without including themselves in the image in the next project.)
• Will you try and recreate the memory literally or will you represent it in a more metaphorical way, as you did in Part Two?
• Will you accompany your image with some text?
• In your learning log, reflect on the final outcome. How does the photograph resemble your memory? Is it different from what you expected? What does it communicate to the viewer? How?
It might be interesting to show your photograph to friends or family members – perhaps someone who was there at the time and someone who wasn’t – and see what the image conveys to them.

The image I have chosen is the one of me standing, with my parents and my older sister on my First Communion Day, Before the front door of the photographer.

My First Communion Day

My First Communion Day

There are a number of reasons why I remember the day and particularly this photograph so clearly.

First Communion Day was a very special day in the life of a 1950’s Irish child. One prepared for this day throughout out the 7th year. We learned to regurgitate great tranches of catechism, very little of which we understood. We were continually encouraged to be ‘good’. We had to ‘confess’ our sins before a priest notwithstanding the fact that it is practically impossible to imagine how a child of seven could sin. All of this ritual instilled terror in us. But there were also good things that happened on that day. Our parents went out of their way to try to make the rest of the day after the church part, as memorable as possible.

My first port of call, after the church, was to a friend of my parents who was a police photographer. For us children this was a fascinating profession. We imagined Mr. Horgan at the scene of all sorts of sinister crimes and accidents and here he was taking the pictures of my ‘big day’ as it was described.

I thought my mother and father looked like film stars with their new outfits. My sister wore her confirmation outfit. When I asked her to send me this photograph we discussed the contents without having to look at it as we both recalled clearly the day.

What I propose to do is to try to dress like my mother, since I am supposed to be very like her. I will superimpose myself on the above photograph. It must be remembered that my mother was 43 years old on my communion day and i am now 71!! What I want to do with this re-construction is to examine how I feel about not rearing my daughter in any religion, rather I allowed my children to choose when they were old enough to decide for themselves. Do I think I have deprived my daughter of something my parents gave me?


The answer is I am happy that my children choose their own religious paths without influence from me.

Technical detail:

I dressed as close to the above image of my mother as I could. I then used the magnetic lasso tool to cut myself out and place that image on a new layer with a masque. I then copied and pasted the old image into that file and sandwiched it in between the newly created layer of me and the original photo of me with plain background. I used free transform to resize the image of myself and tried to superimpose this on the the original of my mother. There was quite a lot of cleaning up to do. I also had to copy and paste pieces of tile around my feet! I am sure it is not perfect but it was a near as I could get with my present knowledge of Photoshop. I then increased the noise of myself in the image to match it closer wit the others in the picture.


Project 2 Masquerades: Exercise 2 Tracey Moffatt

Tracey Moffatt, a Scorpion, used self portraiture to create a series of forty images of women born under the sign of Scorpio. The images are not a serious attempt to ‘be’ the other person rather they are a playful look at some of the external characteristics of these celebrities. Indira Ghandi’s trademark large sunglasses, Catherine Denueve’s hair roll with upturned collar are what Moffatt chooses to accentuate.

She made a contact sheet (1) of each person and shows us these with the ‘chosen’ image ringed. She then places these images on ‘appropriate’ backgrounds, in Photoshop,  to create the final image. it is all about celebrity and pizzazz rather than serious representation.

These women have two things in common, they are born under the sign of Scorpio and they are celebrities. Grouping them under their birth sign is just a way of making a ‘set’. Moffatt says she never uses single images. Her work is about narrative. What these images are about is celebrity and how the media see and portrays these famous people.

Moffatt’s cinematic experience is evident in her series.

While her photographs and films engage with many of the social issues of the present era, land rights, immigration, mass-media, globalisation they also constantlv reference and re-imagine her own past as an Aboriginal, born in 1960 and brought up in a foster home in Brisbane. Her work…..explores both “high” and “low” sources
Paul Savage, Tracy Mofatt, City Gallery Wellington (2)

I find it difficult to work out what connections Moffatt is making between her own Aboriginal origins, her past and her upbringing and this group of Scorpian women. I find the idea of the work interesting and the execution superb.


  1. Tracey Moffatt – Being – Under the Sign of Scorpio, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 2005 – Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. 2016. Tracey Moffatt – Being – Under the Sign of Scorpio, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 2005 – Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 29 February 2016].
  2. . 2016. . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 29 February 2016].

Part 3: Project 2: Masquarade

Exercise 1
• Is there any sense in which Lee’s work could be considered voyeuristic or even exploitative? Is she commenting on her own identity, the group identity of the people she photographs, or both?
• Would you agree to Morrissey’s request if you were enjoying a day on the beach with your family? If not, why not?
• Morrissey uses self-portraiture in more of her work, namely Seven and The Failed Realist. Look at these projects online and make some notes in your learning log.

The first photographer we are asked to study is Nikki S. Lee, in order to consider if we feel her work is voyeuristic. Lee, born 1970 in South Korea, graduated first from a South Korean university before moving to New York to complete her masters. In an interview (1) Lee claims that she does not own a camera and thinks of herself as a conceptual artist using the services of photographers, as did Calle,  to complete her work.

Her work is about the idea of identity and her views toward it. She uses the buddhist concept of thoughts that cause you to view yourself in other people’s shoes. 

According to Par Dyna McLeod in this article Lee

… places herself within the frame of her images, transforming herself into the documented subject after constructing the context and setting the stage. She performs identity – reinventing herself with the stereotypes, media hype, codes, and clues that look into and out from a given community, infiltrates that community, and presents us with a new version of herself.

She completely immerses herself into the adopted identity in order to photograph the project. She has learned to skate for one project and lost weight for another. In this way she takes on the identity of those involved in the world she is documenting. Her aim in doing this work is to find out who she is. This removes a voyeuristic element from her work. However we must ask ourselves why we get drawn into her work. Are we, the vewers, the voyeurs?  It depends, I feel, on the willingness of the participants in the project, to participate. Given the explicitness of her work it would be very difficult to ‘fake’ the results with actors rather than actual people from the sub culture she is investigating. The resulting images fulfill in us a certain voyeurism. We want to see how punks and drag queens live so we look, with interest, at her images. For Lee it appears to be about identifying who she is.

Her work is compared in McLeod’s article to Tehching Hsieh who lived outdoors in Manhatten for a year

he essentially performed homelessness – becoming invisible and anonymous to those who chose not to see him

These artists’ work helps them find their identity. Like most of us,they are a melting pot of selves. We often take on the identity of the place or group within which we find ourselves. Lee took this everyday experience to extremes, becoming part of the ‘group’ into which she fits herself. I think Lee is more concerned with her own identity than the identity of the groups. The technique makes us look at how we regard and label groups. We tend to package certain ‘types’ of people and label them according to our own prejudice. Lee is not doing this she is sitting alongside members of these groups  living their life and in so doing she is discovering who she is.

Irish born Trish Morrissey slotted herself into family groups, assuming the role of one of the group, usually the mother,  to create the series Front. Sarah Phillips interviewed  Morrissey for The Guardian (3) where she picks out one of this series as Morrissey’s best ever image.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 13.56.33

Morrissey explains when she saw the family on the Kent beach she knew it would make a beautiful images. She set it up, slotted herself into the group as the mother and the mother pressed the shutter. It looks totally natural. We would be convinced that she was indeed the mother. However when we look at the whole series Morrissey’s presence in each image pulls us up short. We realise how we can be ‘taken in’ by an image, believing it to be true.

I am sure I would not agree to Morrissey assuming my role in a family portrait on our beach. I would feel really odd clicking the shutter while she sat into my family group. This may be because I am a photographer but I feel it is more than that. I think I would feel she was stealing my identity and my place in my family.

Morrissey’s  work Seven Years (2001-2004)

……. aims to deconstruct the trope of family photography by meticulously mimicking it. In the series, the title of which refers to the age gap between the artist and her elder sister, Morrissey functions as director, author and actor, staging herself and her sibling in tightly controlled, fictional mis en scene based on the conventions of family snapshots.

In order to construct images that appear to be authentic family photographs from the 1970s and 1980s, Morrissey uses period clothing and props, both her own and others, and the setting of her family’s house in Dublin. They assume different characters and roles in each image, utilizing body language to reveal the subtext of psychological tensions inherent in all family relations. The resulting photographs isolate telling moments in which the unconscious leaks out from behind the façade of the face and into the minute gestures of the body.

This sequence of images is almost painful for me having been born and raised in Dublin. I recognise the housing, the furniture and even the table of cakes. Despite being older than Morrissey I wore these clothes, as did my sister and brothers. I feel the tension between the sisters, me being the younger of two sisters. Trish’s bored face as she is persuaded to pose with her elder sister. It is the ‘ordinaryness’ of the surroundings which screams. The images could have come from my own family album.

The artists statement for the series The Failed Realist is as follows

Between the ages of four to six children are often more verbally than visually articulate.  This means that what they wish to express through mark making is often beyond their physical skill. The psychologist Georges-Henri Luquet (1927/2001) called this The Failed Realist stage – the child’s desire to represent his or her world is hampered by motor, cognitive and graphic obstacles that will be overcome with time, but for the moment, their interpretation is flawed.  These drawings are uncorrupted by representational conventions.  The Romantic artists thought this was a reflection of direct access to the expressive self and strove for a return to this innocence in their own painting.  Later on, painters of the modernist movement, such as Picasso, Miro, and Klee saw the drawings of children with their mixed perspectives and exaggerated features as a pure way of seeing.  Picasso famously said ‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child’

This photographic series was made in collaboration with my daughter when she was between the ages of four and five years. Face painting is a rainy day activity that we both enjoy.  Once her motor skills evolved sufficiently well for her to control a paintbrush, she wanted to paint me rather than be painted.  Instead of the usual motifs of butterfly, or flower, she would decide to paint something from her immediate experience – a movie she had just watched, a social event, a right of passage, or a vivid dream.  Beyond the innocence of the child’s intention, more sinister themes such as clowns, carnival and the grotesque are evoked by these mask like paintings.

The child’s imagination is based on her own immediate experiences. She is not limited to representing cats or tigers but uses what she has seen to change her mother’s face into the character she has seen..Her mother becomes some such fictional figure in the following image:

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 11.55.53

For the child her mother assumes this new identity.

  1. Nikki S. Lee | The Creators Project. 2016. Nikki S. Lee | The Creators Project. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 February 2016].
  2. Stretching Identity to Fit: The Many Faces of Nikki S. Lee. 2016. Stretching Identity to Fit: The Many Faces of Nikki S. Lee. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 February 2016].
  3. Trish Morrissey’s best photograph: infiltrating a family on a Kent beach | Art and design | The Guardian. 2016. Trish Morrissey’s best photograph: infiltrating a family on a Kent beach | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 February 2016].