North Carolina photographer Cornell Watson’s photo series “Behind the Mask” is not only a powerful collection of images and words, it is extraordinarily timely and relevant. It is a reminder, to me, that sometimes I just need to shut up and listen to voices that have long been undervalued and underrepresented.
The events of this year have brought to the forefront the pain that has been inflicted on far too many of our fellow citizens. And we need to be honest: That pain has been festering for generations and generations, not just the past few months and not just when they generate headlines and take over the airwaves.
Sometimes, more times than not, a lot of us just need to shut up and listen. Watson’s photo series gives us ample opportunity to do just that. In it, Watson lifts up the stories of men and women marked by having to push through the circumstances thrust upon them by centuries of racism. Like the grandfather who, as a young boy, often would walk to school barefoot because he had no shoes. Or the women and children who, despite the odds, are steadfastly moving forward with their lives.