Have you ever wondered who the people are underneath the costumes at tourist destinations like Disney Parks, Six Flags, and on the streets of New York City and Los Angeles?
Photographer Ken Hermann was visiting Los Angeles from his home in Copenhagen, Denmark when that question first peaked his interest. Having previously worked on a portraiture project, “Flower Man,” which focused on the men who would sell flowers on the streets of Kolkata, he was inspired during his stay in LA to do a similar project, “Behind the Mask.”
The project consisted of Hermann photographing and interviewing the people who dress up as characters and pose for photos on the streets of Hollywood. Ranging from Bumblebee (the Chevrolet Camaro robot in Transformers) to Minnie Mouse and Thor, Hermann didn’t discriminate on who he chose to feature.
Some of the subjects preferred to be photographed in the seclusion of their own homes, while others requested to keep their masks on in order to conceal their real identity. All are very different with very different stories.
“Some of them are trying to pursue the American Dream while others are into acting,” he said. “For some of them, acting didn’t really work out and people started to know who they were and then they became part of the boulevard … maybe they aren’t A-list celebrities; for some it’s not enough but for others, it is.”
Hermann does an earnest job at keeping us from forgetting that those energetic characters we tend to ignore are real people with real stories. They range from recent winners of the green card lottery to fully employed persons who do the impersonations at night as a hobby. Herman explains “…many of them do this because the dream did not go as planned, but not all of them are fallen stars.”