back bounded-next cafe calendar-large calendar cart close coat-check collapse donate download elevators expand explore filter grid-view hamburger heart hours join link list-view location mail more next nursing-room phone print programs ramp restrooms right-arrow search share shop thumbs-down thumbs-up tickets up toilet heart-filled zoom Skip to Content

The Masks Grow to Us


Search and Share Tools

The Masks Grow to Us

Artwork Details


Clarence John Laughlin
American, 1905–1985




Gelatin silver print

Accession #



Please contact the Museum for more information.


Currently Not on View


Though composed like an ordinary shoulder-length portrait, this photograph has fractured layers that give it an eerie, unsettling effect. Half of the subject’s face is covered by an artificial mask with one unnatural, unseeing eye. The dark veil, overgrown vines, and shadows in the background further establish a spooky aura.

Clarence John Laughlin used the dreamlike elements of Surrealism to explore the American South and the interior world. In the title of this work, Laughlin refers to the process of our protective psychological “masks” fusing with and replacing our original personalities.

Laughlin lived and worked in New Orleans, Louisiana. A self-taught photographer, he is known for his haunting and surrealistic images of New Orleans and the Southern landscape. He originally aspired to be a writer but found photography when he was twenty-five and taught himself how to work with a view camera. His first photographic work was as a freelance architectural photographer. He went on to work for other outlets, such as Vogue magazine and the U.S. government, though he later left both in order to focus exclusively on personal projects.


Purchase with funds from Robert Yellowlees