I get a lot of questions. People email me about cameras and film and how to achieve certain effects with their analogue cameras. But the question I get most isn’t about tips or tricks or technique, at least once a week, it’s: where do you get those masks?
I got my first mask around the time I got my first Holga, in the late spring of 2007. It was a bunny and I’d seen one that a friend had hanging in her kitchen. I asked where she bought it and promptly set out to get my own at a local joke shop. As it turned out, the store had other animals as well, and I picked up those, too. I had no idea that more than three years later, I’d be writing about those cheap plastic masks and where to source them. But here it goes.
As I said, I bought my first masks at a joke shop and these, along with costume shops are a good place to start. But hard plastic masks that make it hard to see or breathe are hardly big sellers, so if you can’t find anything in your area, it’s time to hit the Internet.
After I exhausted the local supply of masks, I went online and shopped everywhere from eBay to wholesale dead-stock warehouses in the USA and party shops in the UK. One of the keys, I found, was looking specifically for children’s masks, as many of the styles aren’t made for adults (though, unless you have an unusually large head, the kids’ masks will likely fit a grown-up face as well). Along with the word “mask,” try search terms like “child,” “plastic,” and “fancy dress.” If you’re into vintage masks, you’ll score tons of hits using classic brand names like “Collegeville” and “Ben Cooper” as search terms.
Of course, try eBay, but don’t forget about Etsy.com, Ecrater.com, and Bonanzle.com, all sites I’ve had luck with in the past. And again, for those vintage-hounds: check out online collectibles marketplaces like Rubylane.com and Tias.com.
And now is the perfect time of year to snap up a stash of masks, as sellers all over the world have dusted off their Halloween gear and have posted it online hoping for seasonal sales. (Right after Halloween is good, too, with many masks being discounted after the October rush.)
Once you start looking, you’ll find that the variety of styles and number of masks available is mind-boggling. Just have your credit card ready.
Have you shot with masks before? Share your shots and stories with me!
Pamela Klaffke is a former newspaper and magazine journalist who now works as a novelist and photographer. Her column appears weekly in the Analogue Lifestyle section of Lomography Magazine.