New Orleans is known for its spectacle, revelry and lightness of spirit, and also for its natural disasters, violence and tragedy. Costume is embraced widely, not just during Mardi-Gras, but for small occasions all year. I began to see the readiness of the city to wear masks and make light amidst a harsh and difficult environment as a transcendental practice. People's ability to momentarily relinquish hold of their lives to create a world of joyful, fantastical play was not pure flight of fancy, but deeply rooted in the physical present, at a point of great intensity where the unrestrained joy of the flesh and acknowledgement of death collide. In this work-in-progress I attempt to capture this spirit in a series of Wet-Plate Collodion portraits.