Aline Smithson

Undercover

Finn
Colleen and Pip
The Boys
Alien Cat
Sophie and Hans
Sophie Cat
Brandy, Ed and Buster
The Redhead
Mohanned and Amanda
Drake Leaning

In the dark days of strict self-quarantining, I felt a profound loss to my photographic portrait practice, in addition, a general malaise and sense of isolation. With the mandate to wear masks, I considered not only the loss of identity with faces obscured by swaths of fabric, but the loss of connectivity with friends and family.

I reached out to friends and family and presented my idea for a new series titled Undercover. They would create their own paper bag masks and arrive at my backyard studio for a portrait session at a determined time. After donning their masks, they would step onto the backdrop and wait. I would then appear in my own mask, shout instructions which often resulted in great hilarity, shoot quickly and return to the house. And because I shoot film, I had no idea as to the results for a number of weeks.

What I wasn’t expecting was that while wearing their masks, participants lost a particular self-consciousness that comes from performing for the camera, instead feeling a levity and elevated spirit from participating in an artful and fun activity. The end result revealed new sides to people I know well and documented how art can shift moods even in the darkest of days.