By Emma Horn
In a small studio in the middle of New York City sits a mouse.
She’s seen amazing sights, all over the world – from Africa to Europe to Asia, and in her homeland of the US, too. One day she’s planning to come to Australia.
But she’s only a mouse sometimes.
Mostly she’s 32-year-old Claire Rosen, a fine art photographer and the face behind the mouse mask.
Living in a magic world
Ms Rosen first picked up a camera when she was 17. She said it was like “watching magic”.
But before she’d taken her first photo, she had liked escaping into a world of pretend.
As a child, she and her four younger sisters would dress up as the characters in their favourite story books, stories where animals came to life and went exploring mystical worlds.
In the years since, Ms Rosen has relived those dress-up days in her photos.
Getting the right fit
She’s tried other animal heads – a giraffe, a rhino, a zebra, a duck, a frog – but she’s only comfortable as a mouse.
“I think people don’t expect much from mice because they’re small,” she says from New York.
“When I put it on [the first time], my whole body language changed.”
People tend to stop and stare when she’s travelling with the mouse head. But it’s the reaction that makes the whole experience worthwhile.
The mouse head has turned Ms Rosen into a celebrity.
“There’s been some countries where they’ve really loved the mask and it’s gotten a lot of attention and everybody’s wanted to have their picture taken with the mouse,” she says.
But there are other places where the mouse was not so welcome.
Like in Fez, a city in Morocco, North Africa. While taking a photo with a donkey on the street, Ms Rosen accidentally got involved in a fight with the locals.
“I put on the mask and [went] to stand next to this donkey, and this man came out of nowhere, screaming at me,” she says.
“But then this amazing thing happened where all of these people rose to my defence, saying, ‘Leave her alone. Let her take a picture with the donkey.’ ”
Despite that, Morocco was her favourite country to explore as the mouse.
Working with animals
When she’s not travelling the world in a mouse head, Ms Rosen photographs animals having a dinner party. It’s for her next major project, called Fantastical Feasts.
Of course some animals are harder to work with than others. Ostriches have been her most challenging subjects.
“There’s no rationalising with an ostrich …,” she says. “You could hold the bowl up to them and feed them from your hand, but once you put the bowl on the table it was like they really didn’t get it.”
It’s the excitement of never quite knowing what the animal will do next that Ms Rosen loves. And it’s the same feeling of uncertainty she enjoys when she’s travelling as the mouse.
“It’s not about the photography,” she says. “It’s about the lives you get to peer into, the people you get to meet, the things you get to learn.
“The mouse does that for me. It lets me have these interesting experiences in a funny way.”