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Saving Face - Alejandra Carles-Tolra

8 years ago

Alejandra Carles-Tolra was part of the World Photography Organisation's Meet & Critique evening in the summer of 2015 at theprintspace in Shoreditch, London. Her work examines the relationship between individual and group identity, and how the latter shapes the former. Questions regarding what defines it, the role surroundings play and the threshold between individual and group identity drive and inform her work as an artist.

She graduated with an MFA in Photography from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and a BA in Sociology from the University of Barcelona. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally, most recently at The Huffington Post, The Independent, L’Oeil De La Photographie, CNN, Gup Magazine, Cosmopolitan, i-D Vice and Valid Foto BCN Gallery.  

Saving Face

In the streets of Vietnam’s major cities young men and women walk around wearing face masks. With most of their faces covered they all become alike, they all become one. Yet the range of designs and shapes reveal personality clues that highlight individuality, bringing the viewer closer to imagine the person who lies beneath the mask. 

In the transition towards a fast-developing country Vietnam has witnessed an enormous flow of people migrating from the countryside to large cities. Consequently, the number of motor vehicles that jam its cities has increased immensely, causing an alarming rate of pollution. The new generation have decided to take action and protect themselves from being exposed on a daily basis to the contaminated air with the mask. However, the mask plays a dual role, since its popularity has also grown due to an increasing concern among the youth to have pale skin. The obsession for white skin - a sign of beauty among many asian cultures, especially women - has eventually reached Vietnam’s growing middle class. 

Inspired by old communist propaganda posters I decided to use a red backdrop as a way to unify all my subjects and allow the viewer to pay attention to the small differences among them. These collection of portraits aims to comment on the environmental, beauty and class concerns that are arousing in Vietnam’s changing consciousness.