As humans, we make a ton of silly faces without even realizing it and, sometimes, a photographer will capture the magic moment when one of these strange expressions is being made. Photographer Rich Johnson turns these embarrassing moments back onto the picture takers in his amusing series titled Behind the Mask. In it, eight different photographers pose for two images: one with their camera and the other without.
To produce Behind the Mask, Johnson first asked each photographer to hold their camera and pretend like they were snapping a picture. After shooting this portrait, Johnson's assistant quickly removed the camera out of the subject's hands. Then, he took a picture of them, camera-less with the same expression on their face. “It was really interesting to see the results of this project,” Johnson told PetaPixel. “Some were totally comfortable with it, and others weren't.”
The inspiration for Johnson's series came from his own experience. “From time-to-time, I would catch myself making faces behind the camera and wondered if all photographers did this,” he explained. For him, it's safer to be behind the lens. “As a photographer I sometimes look at my camera as a shield,” Johnson said. “It makes it easier to insert myself in situations, and somehow feel completely disconnected from the moment. It's as if I am wearing a mask and no one can see me.”
Behind the Mask takes away the social comfort that comes with the device to remind us that we're all human. “Photographers demand a lot from their subjects,” Johnson remarked, “but once you flip the camera on them, they have the same emotions and conflicts the rest of the world has.”
My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Rich Johnson.