“Finding this community has saved my life,” - Melissa Spitz on her finding support from Instagram following.
Earlier this year I launched a personal project, Behind the Mask. I wanted to explore how people use social masks to hide or obscure their feelings and emotions when in the company of others. Having just come across Melissa Spitz work - You Have Nothing To Worry About , photographing her mother who suffers from a mental illness I started to question the motivation of my own work.
My own mother has been slipping ever deeper in to dementia for probably some fifteen years. Since my fathers death, late in 2017, my mother has lived in a care home. We're separated by thousands of miles; me in BC, Canada, she in Devon, UK. We regularly speak by phone yet, the dementia dictates that every call never happened. It's also been impossible for me to move on from my fathers death as he is still very much alive in my mothers world. When I speak with my mother I try to figure out what period or even periods of her life she currently inhabits. She pieces together fragments of memory to create a reality that may transcend many years and family generations. Honing in on her truth is not easy.
Back to my motivation. Reading through the British Journal of Photography article has prompted me to ask myself to what extent Behind the Mask is semi-autobiographical. In what ways am I subconsciously exploring my own and my mothers masks? It may be that there was no connection, however, there is now. Although the project is not a documentary, scanning through Spitz' Instagram feed I'm inspired to explore differing pairs of portraits as Behind the Mask develops. I haven't suffered like Spitz or her mother, yet I can use their experience to grow and inform my own work and life.