Tell me, you so wise, who among us does not have many masks

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

The expression “Janus faced” stems from Roman mythology. The god it represents, Janus, was two-headed. Sculptures show  two faces arranged in opposite directions.  The contemporary expression “Janus faced” is used to call out “two-faced” or deceitful persons, often politicians. Classic Greek theater  has a similar pairing many modern theater goers have seen of the two masks of drama, which show the classical Greek division of comedy and tragedy. They symbolize ancient Greek muses, Thalia and Melpomene. The muse of comedy is represented by the laughing face, and the muse of tragedy is represented by the weeping face.

I thought about the faces we present to the public, sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. No one is able to fully mask their emotions, and I would say all of us can wear each mask depending on our ambitions and circumstances. Many of us encounter this daily, perhaps in a work environment with someone who projects being a lovable person to impress an audience he or she deems important to his or her personal priorities, and then they wear the other face when they no longer need to put on an act and can display the polar opposite behavior, usually to subordinates.

A conversation I had last night made me think about this, and during my long run today I thought about a pair of pictures I have of someone I once knew. Her faces were wonderfully clear, and powerful. I took these photos more than a dozen years ago, when I was much more involved in black and white portraiture and fascinated by what those portraits would tell me and other viewers. I hope one day to have someone capture me with my masks so I can see how I project my masks to the public.

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