Behind the Mask

I wouldn’t normally consider myself as someone who would go to an exhibition, it always seems quite pretentious, although I was swiftly put into my place when I went to see Behind the Mask.

I was blown away by Andy Gotts’s exhibition. To give a little background, he is a big deal. A former president of The British Institute of Photographers, MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List and he has photographed anyone and anything. In 2014 he released his project for the Lowry entitled ‘BAFTA – ‘Behind the Mask’ and in his own words, “I specialise in character studies of the face and try to show a new and different side of world famous faces in my ‘warts and all’ style.”

This is exactly what it was.

A delicious mix of glamour from the BAFTAS with a dark, almost twisted fairy tale style layer to the images. From Robert De Niro to Kevin Spacy, the array of stars is stellar. I feel his description of photographing Helena Bonham-Carter perfectly sums up his candid, documentary style: “I shot Helena at her London home. I was stood outside her house in the rain waiting for her and I got drenched. She turned up some 20 minutes later, as she got caught in the traffic, but we got indoors and dried off while sipping a coffee. I did some soft lit shots where she looked quite angelic but I felt I wanted to get away from that “English rose” label she was given.

I saw she had a collection of hats in the corner of the room, and in the middle of them was a jester’s hat. I have always thought that jesters have the same eerie quality as clowns, so I thought it might be fun to do a few shots like that. As soon as she put the hat on she began to clown around and we took some great shots. During her antics she stopped and yawned and this totally spontaneous shot makes me smile when I see it.”

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I was utterly impressed by the exhibition, I purchased the book and find so much inspiration from it. To be able to have such a career and to not only meet so many amazing people, but to have the bravery to photograph them so candidly and without their entourage and make-up gives me such hope that our society of fakery and manipulation isn’t as popular as we’re lead to believe.

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