In the photo series ‘Just the two of us’, Austrian photographer Klaus Pichler aims at highlighting the huge variety of traditional costumes from Europe & Asia which are still worn by people on special occasions. Dressing up into unusual costumes for special traditional celebrations has been an integral part in many societies for centuries.
Irrespective of the motivational factor, be it cultural, fandom, a prop for a game, or a ‘reinvention of one’s own identity’, in each case, the person wears a mask and transforms himself/ herself into an altogether different character. “This increasing desire for transformation, the creation of a kind of parallel reality and identity, can without a doubt be related to increasingly difficult circumstances in society. Therefore, dressing up and related activities can, in this context, be regarded as a temporary withdrawal from civil life.” explains Klaus Pichler.
The selection of a certain mask is a conscious decision, which is mostly based on the passion for a thematic background of a costume or the identification with character traits of the individual figure. The sheer amount of time which is invested in the creation of handmade costumes is evidence of the fact that the decision to dress as a certain character is usually well thought through. Therefore, each costume indirectly conveys information about the person behind it.
In this photo series, Pichler shot people dressed in elaborate costumes in the setting of their own homes. Pichler explains, “The choice of location is not a coincidence: Nowhere else is the (abstract) link between the person behind the mask and his or her alter ego as visible as in their own home. Nowhere else would it have been possible to portray the mask and, figuratively speaking, the person behind it on the same picture.” The subjects, who are mostly clad in full body costumers were photographed quietly while being indulged in their daily routine activities. “This setting allows the person behind the masquerade to shine through- the home and the individual activity are ‘themselves’ and the activities are not exactly what would normally be expected of the character the costume portrays.” says Pichler.
The setting intends to spark certain questions: Why did the person choose this particular costume? Does the decoration style of the home give any kind of clues? And, most importantly, Who on this earth is hidden behind the mask?