STEPHEN J. HILL PHOTOGRAPHY
Masked—In the Year of the Plague
As a concerned citizen, I did heed our local official’s advice to stay indoors as we learned to live with the Covid 19 pandemic. As a creative communicator, I asked myself how I can comment on the current situation from this imposed distance.
I am reminded of a quote from Duane Michals, “Every event in my consciousness is stuff for my photographs. I can sit in my living room and the universe comes to me.” These photographs are my reaction to the pandemic.
As a visual metaphor, I use the haunting bird-like masks worn by 17th-century plague doctors during the bubonic plague in parts of Europe. The beak of the mask would be filled with aromatic herbs and spices to filter out “evil” smells.
Those were dark times. The people’s leaders and doctors based a lot of their decisions on pseudoscience.
Today we are amid another “plague” and our past President and other leaders refused to be informed by modern science. Those were dark times as well. How far have we progressed?
I don’t see these masks as harbingers of doom—like the Grim Reaper, or to the opposite end of the spectrum—the scull masks used in celebrating the dead in Mexico’s yearly Day of the Dead festival. I see these plague masks as an exaggeration of the face masks that we all must wear to stem the contagions spread.