Why do we display our faces but cover our bodies? Walk around fully clothed and no one gives it a second thought, but walk down the street naked and you may be arrested for ‘indecent exposure’.
In 2010, Ben Hopper started work on ‘Naked with Masks’, a portrait series that parodied self-censorship and unlawful exposure by photographing anonymous models in public locations – nude except for their eye-catching masks. Each unauthorised shoot was carefully planned and tightly executed. Quick set-up, rapid getaway.
In the end, the police never arrived, but censorship soon came from another source: social media. Shortly after going viral, images from Naked with Masks led to a ban on the newly founded Instagram. It was the first of many strikes against Hopper’s work, and an early sign of how online platforms would grow to police both artists and the human body.
‘(not) Naked with Masks’ is a companion series to Hopper’s iconic original project which resonates with its themes of censorship, identity and acceptance. Each shot captures the seconds before a final picture was taken, with models posing to fix the framing and light exposure before the big reveal – and before escaping the scene.
Ironically, this covered-up collection is the one that can finally pass the ‘no entry’ signs of social media and society at large. Masked, discreet, anonymous – disguised and unreal.
All portraits for ‘(not) Naked with Masks’ were taken between 2010 and 2016 in London, Montreal, and the Israeli desert.
The larger 'Naked with Masks' series collects some of Hopper’s most memetic images and will be released in the near future as one of his genesis NFT collections.