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about | © Robert Matheson


Masquerade is a series of eleven tintypes featuring iconography of the dollar bill. The collection explores the evolution of money from physical to digital along with modern currency manipulation.

The inspiration for this series evolved over the summer of 2016. It began with my interest in digital cryptocurrencies. I was learning all I could about the emergence of the Ethereum Project, a decentralized block chain platform with it's own currency known as Ether. Around this time I attended a meeting with the San Diego Photography Collective where Anton Orlov was presenting on various alternative photography techniques. Wet plate collodion caught my eye due to the analog nature of the process combined with the symbolic chemical ingredients of ether & silver. Shortly after I began a series of 4 tintype workshops with Anton. The Masquerade series emerged from our final session.

Prior to this, the majority of my photographic experience was using 35mm film and digital photography. I had no experience with darkroom processes and nothing related to wet plate collodion. Anton taught me the basics of sourcing materials, mixing chemicals, pouring collodion, exposing, developing and varnishing aluminum plates. I proposed the idea of a camera-less process to expose digital images onto the film. The source image for the project was initially created by scanning a dollar bill. I then scaled the image down to reduce the pixel density. The result, when zoomed, is the appearance of abnormally large pixels.

Using DLP projection technology, we then exposed various icons and snippets of type from the dollar onto the light-sensitive plates, merging digital and analog once again. The DLP chip uses 1000s of mirrors to project light onto the plates, further enhancing the pixelated effect (referred to as the 'screen door' effect in the audio/video world). The same technique is currently being used for the Wet Plate Project, tintypes created live over the Internet.

Why the topic of money?

Many people believe money is a necessary tool for society to function. This may be true but what most don't consider is how it has evolved over time. Today, in the US, money only represents the historical value of your labor. Digitizing money and decoupling it from an actual physical asset like gold or silver is a very bad idea. Money is no longer real.

This has led to an exploitive monetary system. Bankers have created a system that allows complete control over the value of your labor; past, present and future. They manipulate you using the tools of printed money, interest rates and money lending.

For the vast majority of us, working with a Banker is a requirement, not an option. Want a good job? 10 year student loan. Want a car to get to school? 5 year auto loan. A house to live in? 30 year mortgage. All designed to consume as much future labor as possible while the Banker simultaneously devalues any labor you've saved in the form of money. It's designed to keep us working for the benefit of those who do little to no work at all.

In my effort to raise awareness of these issues, the Masquerade project has taught me some important lessons. The value of my work is not measured by the money I receive, rather by my fulfillment. The value of my life is not measured by ones and zeros in a digital bank account, rather by my happiness and well-being. Like an analog wave, life is always changing, up and down, but true value is in the present moment. RIGHT NOW. Money is someone else's bad idea. Resist being enslaved by it.