In LA, street performers dressed as pop culture icons pose with tourists, but who are these people underneath the costumes? In his bold series “Behind the Mask of Hollywood Street Characters” Danish photographer Ken Hermann peeks into the private lives of those trying to eke out a living as impersonators.
Why did you decide to photograph this characters?
While in Los Angeles working on an assignment in April, I stayed at a hotel close to the famous Hollywood Boulevard. Walking down the boulevard every day I became very fascinated with the street artists who work as impersonators dressing up as Hollywood icons and pose with tourists for tips. Passing by giant cartoon characters, Hollywood star look alikes and superheroes, I instantly became curious about who these street artists that spend so much time and effort imitating someone else really are, and then my idea for the series came to me.
What is the story behind these street performers?
After talking to several of the impersonators it became clear to me that many of them are, or once were, pursuing the American dream of becoming someone special and famous. I found this struggle and pursuit of the ambition, meshed with the innocent fantasy world of dressing up, very intriguing.
In your photo series you show a human side to these characters. Why?
With the series of portraits my idea was to give the viewer the same curiosity about the person behind the mask as I had when the idea for this project came to me. I want to give the audience a more serious aspect of each character, taking a look at the lives that hide inside the cartoon costumes and outlandish outfits. Normally the street characters are pictured with a funny face in lively settings but instead I was aiming for a more personal expression of the real person behind the mask. In order to enhance this idea, several of my portraits were also taken in the characters’ own homes.