Chris Rainier, Robert L. Weisch
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Celebrated photographer Chris Rainier has documented indigenous and endangered cultures worldwide. What began as a focus on the masks of New Guinea—where modernity threatened to erase ancient rituals and cultures—became an expansive journey to find and photograph traditional masks that has taken Rainier across six continents over the past thirty years.
The result is this mesmerizing photographic collection of masks—some of them ancient, some newer, many hidden at the edges of the known world and rarely revealed to outsiders. Traditional masks are so often seen behind the glass of museum cabinets, divorced from their spiritual significance. But the masks in this collection are still being danced today, in countless cultures all over the world. Rainier conveys them pulsing with the rhythms of life, full of power and spiritual relevance.
Through his stunning photography—at once mysterious and unguarded—Rainier takes us on a pilgrimage to experience masks and mask rituals: from those found at initiation rituals in Burkina Faso to Bön Buddhist masks long hidden in a Nepalese monastery in the high Himalayas, the raven and bear regalia of North American First Nation potlatches, and the terrifying, child-chasing Krampus masks of the Austrian Alps. Accompanying these striking images are a foreword by renowned essayist Pico Iyer, ethnographic notes from anthropologist Robert L. Welsch, and fascinating stories recounting Rainier’s journeys to distant lands to preserve and celebrate these objects of beauty and power and the cultures that produce them.
Chris Rainier, Photographer: Chris Rainier is a documentary photographer and National Geographic explorer who is highly respected for his documentation of endangered cultures and traditional languages around the globe. He is a fellow at the Royal Geographic Society in London. Prior to Mask, he published five books documenting traditional cultures around the globe, from the stone age tribes of New Guinea to the ancient tradition of tattoo body marking. Rainier is the director of the Cultural Sanctuaries Foundation, a global program focused on legally preserving biodiversity and cultural heritage. Rainier has photographed on all seven continents, focusing on the preservation of the planet's last wildernesses and traditional cultures.