Experimentation, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – The Perils of Self-Experimentation

During the experiment shoots, I have applied various substances to my face. I decided that I should do these experiments myself as I have concerns over the ethics of applying these substances to other peoples’ faces in case of an allergic reaction.

As someone with sensitive skin and who suffers from Allergic Contact Dermatitis, I was well aware of the possibility of a reaction to the substances. My aim was to minimise the reactions by conducting shoots 19-20 on the same day, and then 2 weeks later shoots 25-31 together. After each set of experiments, I suffered an allergic reaction.

I suffered from red, blotchy skin that was very hot, almost burning to touch. The skin felt tight and stiff and was quite itchy. After being exposed to these substances, my body suffered an inflammatory response.

In order to treat the inflammation and reaction, I applied cold water and kept my face as cool as possible.  I also applied vaseline which soothed the skin. This treatment was effective and the inflammation was virtually gone.


The image below was taken straight after the shoot (with vaseline on my face to soothe it).



Below are images were taken 8 hours after the shoot, still inflammed and sore.


These images show how our hard it is to wear a mask every day and how hard it is to take it off. Our masks become almost embedded in our skin, removing part of us when the mask is taken off. Once the mask is removed, we are raw underneath. This allergic reaction really emphasises this rawness.

This reaction has convinced me that I was right not to apply the substances to the faces of other people. I would have felt terribly guilty if this had happened to anyone else.

For the future, I do have further experiments planned which could cause me an issue. So to try and prevent this, my intention is to source material that is hypoallergenic. Hopefully, this will prevent a reoccurrence of the issue.

Experimentation, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#31 – Behind the Mask – My Mask #7


Poor girl with a mask on her face
can you really see through those cut-out holes
or are you completely blind?
to what’s before you, what you are missing?
what you are leaving behind?”

– Lauren Ashley (Hello Poetry, 2017)




Hello Poetry. (2017). Mask poems on Hello Poetry. [online] Available at: https://hellopoetry.com/words/mask/ [Accessed 12 Nov. 2017].

Experimentation, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#30 – Behind the Mask – Removing My Mask #4


Drawing inspiration from Gillian Wearing’s work involving masks (PREVIOUS BLOG POST), I decided to attempt to cast a mask of my own face and get other people to wear it in photographs.

With the help of a friend (Alison), I trialled covering my face with chromatic alginate. Following on from previous allergic reaction issues, I researched and chose a make that is both non-toxic and hypoallergenic.  The alginate changes colour as it sets (from pink to white) to ensure that the correct amount of time is given for the material to set.

Alison and I made sure that we had prepared everything well in advance as the material is fast setting. We completed a trial run and found the material to set incredibly quickly, even when made with cold water. We decided to make the mask in parts.

The other complication is that I have an irrational fear of things going into my eyes and I panic if I feel I cannot breathe. This made the process more challenging. This was especially true when the alginate went up my nose slightly. I panicked and ripped the mask off my mouth (which had to be redone). We kept the alginate away from my eyes to prevent another panic reaction.

The first mask (above) did not have any stability or integrity. It broke up before it could be strengthened. The whole mask ended up looking like white blancmange.

I then decided to retry using strips of bandage soaked in alginate. This was pressed and held against my face and produced a more stable mask. The alginate was easier to control and did not go anywhere unexpected, so this time there were no panic episodes.

In front of the camera wearing the mask I felt invincible. The mask was very powerful and quite stiff to remove. I removed the mask to reveal a severe allergic reaction to the bandage material used.

The inside of the mask is too rough to create a mask of my face. I would like to get a replica mask made of my face but am concerned about potential further allergic reactions and panic attacks if the moulding material gets in my eyes or up my nose. I intend to investigate professional mask making services and to have a discussion with them before any moulding process takes place.




Experimentation, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#29 – Behind the Mask – My Mask #6


Behind my mask of silver and gold
My identity is hidden well
No one sees past the masquerade
The beauty of the mask puts them under a spell
They get lost in swirling patterns
Of crushed velvet in midnight blue
In a trance and blind to the truth
Tears run down my face like morning dew
But no one notices
The pain that I bear
Because I still dance in circles
With the moonlight in my hair
And the mask on my face
Is where it shall stay
Because my life is a masquerade
And it fools the world every day”

– Satsuki Sep 2014 (Hello Poetry, 2017)


Applying a Gold Collagen mask to my face, I felt a little like CP30 from Star Wars!. The mask is quite slimy and kept moving as the shots were taken. This felt the same as it does when my daily mask slips a little and starts to show who I really am. I do not like this sensation, it makes me uneasy and feels very risky.

“Sometimes it’s not the people who change; it’s the mask that falls off.”

– (Nancyjohnsonsmith.com, 2017)


My true emotions and expressions beneath this mask are hard to read. The eye slots are restrictive to both see out and in. The mouth slot is very limiting. The mask moulds to my face, so it picks up some of the muscle movement below it.

The gold mask is symbolic of the masks I place on every day to face the world. Sometimes it slips. Would you recognise me without my mask? Will you celebrate who I am, offering me support and encouragement to be myself unmasked?




Hello Poetry. (2017). Mask poems on Hello Poetry. [online] Available at: https://hellopoetry.com/words/mask/ [Accessed 12 Nov. 2017].

Nancyjohnsonsmith.com. (2017). Losing Our Masks – Shifting Our Relationships | Nancy Johnson Smith. [online] Available at: https://nancyjohnsonsmith.com/losing-our-masks-shifting-our-relationships/ [Accessed 25 Nov. 2017].


Experimentation, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#28 – Behind the Mask – My Mask #5

Eyes are often referred to as the windows to the soul. If you can’t see my eyes, you cannot see my soul. You cannot know what I am feeling or thinking.

Psychologists Sebastiaan Mathôt and Stefan Van der Stigchel proposed that our eyes (and in particular our pupils) react to our emotions, revealing our true feelings and intentions to those we engage with. We have no control over this response of the pupils. They argue that “studies have shown that the light response is far more than a reflex, and reveals what you attend to, how you interpret what you see, and even what you think about” (Mathôt and Van der Stigchel, 2015: 374)

My gaze does not return your gaze. Your eyes are drawn to this image, yet you cannot penetrate beyond the flowers. There is tension between what you see and what I reveal. It is easy to fake a smile with my mouth, but not so easy to fake it with my eyes. My eyes always give me away. By looking at my eyes, you will know how I am really thinking.

So are the eyes the window to my soul?

It says in Luke 11:34 “the eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body is also full of darkness.” (The Holy Bible, 2005: 809). I interpret this as if you look into my eyes you would be able to see how I feel; you could see the truth and sincerity in my expression. My true self and identity is accessed through my eyes. I take away the option to look into my eyes and you cannot know who I am. I will then be who I want you to think I am.

When I am ready I will let you look into my eyes.





The Holy Bible. (2005). Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Bibles.

Mathôt, S. and Van der Stigchel, S. (2015). New Light on the Mind’s Eye: The Pupillary Light Response as Active Vision. Current Directions in Psychological Science, [online] 24(5), pp.374-378. Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0963721415593725 [Accessed 25 Nov. 2017].

Experimentation, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#27 – Behind the Mask – My Mask #4


Smile clown smile
Dress up and paint your face
Jump and fall down
It’s just paint after all
Look at them laugh
Here them clap
They laugh about you
Who cares in the end?
The joke is on you
Keep it inside and hide
Smile while you are empty
Smile while you are sad
Smile while you are dying
They will still laugh
Smile clown smile
The show must go on
Hurry, step right in
Jump and fall again
No one will come to your rescue
It’s just paint after all”

– Hugo A Oct 2012 (Hello Poetry, 2017)




Hello Poetry. (2017). Mask poems on Hello Poetry. [online] Available at: https://hellopoetry.com/words/mask/ [Accessed 12 Nov. 2017].

Experimentation, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#26 – Behind the Mask – My Mask #3

“Mask Forever Worn

This gilded mask that I wear each day,
can only be seen through by those who take their time to inspect it,
every crack,
every scratch,
only then will you understand what lies beneath this mask forever worn,
used to show that I’m not so different from you,
I wear it each day so I can function,
why does it seem so heavy?”

– Michael Tobin (Hello Poetry, 2017)


Applying a gold collagen paper face mask to my face was an interesting experience. I felt very glamorous in it

Beneath the mask, you can still see my eyes. I could see out but my sight was slightly limited by the mask. This is how wearing my daily mask feels. Dependent on the situation, I deceive myself every time I wear my mask. I do not allow myself to see everything around me; I limit what I can see. If I do not allow myself to see everything; my mask prevents it. If I can’t see something, then I don’t have to deal with it. This makes it easier to cope with life.

The small space for my mouth means that my voice is limited. I cannot speak clearly and you cannot hear me properly. I feel like this sometimes when I speak to others. My daily mask projects confidence and happiness, but you do not hear me suffer and cry. You cannot hear my true message, my mask muffles it.

You can see some emotion when I am wearing this mask, but it looks forced and false and you only see what the mask allows you to see. The true strength and depth of my emotions are not revealed. You look at my face and think you know me and what I am thinking. But do you really you know who I am? Do you know how I feel?


Behind the mask

 We all wear different masks.

The mask of a smile when we’re crying inside.

The mask that we have everything under control when truly our life is out of control.

The mask of being sober when we’re drunk.

The mask of intelligence when the truth is we dropped out of college.

The mask of being wealthy when there is a drawer full of credit card statements waiting to be paid.

The mask of being so busy and popular when in fact we sit alone at night.

Lose the masks. Be vulnerable. Be authentic. Be you.”

– Tanya Kainz (Hello Poetry, 2017)


I still have a way to go with this. I am working on removing my mask. The connection between what I am portraying and what I am feeling needs to be resolved. I need to feel ok about others seeing the emotions that hold my mask to my face. I need to be able to acknowledge my demons and deal with them. This will take time, bear with me.



Hello Poetry. (2017). Mask poems on Hello Poetry. [online] Available at: https://hellopoetry.com/words/mask/ [Accessed 12 Nov. 2017].

Experimentation, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#25 – Behind the Mask – Removing My Mask #3

My third experiment with trying to remove a facial mask in front of the camera involved using a peel-off mask that contained Tea Tree, Witch Hazel, and Canadian Willowherb.

Figure 1: My 7th Heaven. Tea Tree Peel-Off. 2017

The image on the packet indicated that the mask was much greener than it actually turned out to be.

The application of the mask was easy and it dried quite quickly once on. There was a tingling sensation as it was drying, due I believe to the tea tree content. This did concern me due to previous allergic reactions to masks. Unlike the previous masks I have tried, this one peeled off quite easily.

The aim of the shoot was to replicate what it feels like when we are removing the masks that we wear. There was no pain associated with the removal of the mask, but for someone who does not use masks due to sensitive skin the mask did feel odd at times when being removed.

Even though the mask is transparent and you can still see my face below it, it felt like I  was hiding behind a much thicker mask. I felt secure in it. Removing the mask I felt more and more aware that I had nothing to hide behind. The removal of the mask was tricky. Not only did it come off in bits, it also made me question myself more. Who was I at that point? I felt more vulnerable and was concerned about the portrayal of myself (something I hadn’t thought about at the start of the session).

It is interesting how this experiment had an impact on my feelings and confidence levels. This is something I will explore further through additional work.




My 7th Heaven. (2017). Tea Tree Peel Off | 7th Heaven | Montagne Jeunesse. [online] Available at: https://www.my7thheaven.com/product/tea-tree-peel-off/ [Accessed 25 Nov. 2017].

Experimentation, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#23 – Behind the Mask – Forcing a Smile

“I hide all my problems behind my smile. Behind my smile is a world of pain. You think you know me, but you have no idea. When you see me smiling you may think that my life is perfect, or that I have no problems or pains that I suffer through, but nothing could be further from the truth. Before you judge my life to be perfect and without any pain make sure you know who I really am and what I go through each and every day . . . I . . . have a . . . [life-threatening] illness that is not always obvious, but that does not mean I am not affected by these things. Look behind my smile and take the time to find out who I am and what I go through, you may be surprised.”

– (Lookupquotes.com, 2017)


Every day with my Addison’s Disease is a struggle. I tire easily, unexpectedly overreact to little things, and at the moment I am in a lot of pain with my muscles and joints. But thanks to my cocktail of medications, I have a mask that I wear every day. I am able to trick the world into thinking that I am happy, confident and pain-free.

Instead, I have to force a smile so that the children in my lessons feel content and happy to learn. I force a smile to make those around me feel ok about things. I force a smile to try and make myself feel better.

This week I went to see the doctors about the increasing and often excruciating pain in my muscles and back. At the moment I find standing, walking and sitting painful. It hurts for my cats to walk onto my lap. Pretty much everything hurts me and I don’t get much relief from it. Physio helps, as do painkillers but it is a short-lived relief and the pain always comes back. At the end of the appointment, the doctor said that it is always lovely to see me. My face must have registered some confusion. I had just explained my pain levels to him and he was commenting how lovely it was to see me.  He qualified his comment by adding that ‘you are always so smiley’. Not sure what else I am supposed to do. Smiling is my coping mechanism and my defence. Hopefully, my blood test results will discover the cause and add to my medication cocktail to help mask the pain to me and the world. Time will tell. In the meantime, I will keep forcing that smile.




Lookupquotes.com. (2017). I hide all my problems behind my smile. Behind my smile is a world of pain. You think you know me, but you have no idea.. [online] Available at: http://www.lookupquotes.com/picture_quotes/i-hide-all-my-problems-behind-my-smile/41815/ [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].

Experimentation, Sustainable Prospects

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#22 – Behind the Mask – My Mask #2

Sometimes I feel like I am trapped in my mask and cannot get out. The use of a net in this shoot symbolises how it feels. Parts of my face can be seen, but the strain is evident when I try to break free.

My glasses are part of my mask, so are worn over the top of the net. This net was very large and very strong (it is an old industrial net). I was straining to break it but could not, instead the net cut into my fingers and pressing into my face. I felt trapped.

I feel trapped behind my mask a lot of the time. It is so tough and really hard to break through. I cannot get out. But, do I really want to?