The Mask Series

I was super fortunate to have been ask to take part in “The Mask Series” Wet Plate Collodion International Collaborative Collection. The curator of this project is Shane Balkowitsch an amazing wet plate artist himself. He is shipping identical gas mask around the world to several who still practice this form of photography and gives you full creative reign. The only thing you must do is use the provided mask.

The following is from his website HERE:

The Goal:

The goal for this series is to raise awareness of the historic wet plate technique as an art form.  This will allow artists that normally do not have a chance to share their work to participate in a collaborated effort with other artists from around the world.  The ultimate goal is to have the collection shown in a gallery as a complete body of work or have it published in a book.  This is the largest wet plate collaboration in the history of mankind.

The Prop:

The prop that must be used in each image is a vintage Czech M10 gas mask.  This ambiguous prop from decades ago is perfect for this series.  It levels the playing field for each artist.  It also highlights and allows the perspective, composition and personal taste of the artist to be the focus.  Some artists may find it an inspiration, while others may view it to be a crutch or hindrance.  The end result will be the unique vision of each individual artist.  Gas masks have historically been used to protect people and citizens usually in times of war.  In other situations a mask can be used to hide the identity of its wearer.  The gas mask is also very symbolic to the wet plate process since many hazardous and caustic chemicals are used during the development of the images and most wet plate studios use gas masks on a daily basis.  This type of vintage gas mask also has a presence and cannot be easily ignored.  If the prop used for this process was a shirt or hat for instance, someone may not draw a line from one artist image to another’s.  With the gas mask, the viewer will quickly realize the common thread amongst the pieces of work, and can then identify and understand the purpose of the collection.

The Project and Process:

Once an artist decides to participate and take up the challenge,  a gas mask will be sent to them.  The artist then produces a wet plate collodion image of any size or type that works best for them.  Traditionally, images are captured on glass (ambrotype) or metal (tin type).  The only restrictions put upon the artist is that the image must be a true wet plate collodion image and that the mask appears somewhere in the image.  The image and the mask is then returned so it can be sent to the next artist in line.  The positive response to this series has been so great that a group of gas masks will be used so that more than one artist can be working on the project at a time.  These same “traveling” masks will be used by everyone and can eventually be displayed with the collection.  Once the artist returns the image that he or she has produced, it will be scanned and shared on this website.  The original piece of work will be safely archived for later use for displaying a complete collection with the original masks.

The Promise:

It is the promise of this collaboration that everyone who wants to be involved will be involved.  There is no selection process.  If someone wants to participate, they will be given the opportunity and their work will be given the same relevance and importance as anyone else in the group.  Each artist will have as much time and they deem necessary with the mask to capture their image.  There is no cost to be involved, the only out of pocket expense an artist has it to pay postage for the mask and the image back to the below address.  All other costs and expenses for the project will be covered by myself.

This is my submission:



For those not familiar with Wet Plate it is a process from the 1800’s. You sensitise a plate, made from metal (tintype) or glass (ambrotype) by coating it with a collodion mixture and dipping the plate in silver nitrate. Then you expose it in a holder in the back of a camera, then develop it. Here is a video that talks about the process.

It had been a while since I had shot any wet plate, but being reinvigorated by it here is another plate.


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The Mask Series Info
Shane BalkowitschWebsite

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