A death mask is often made of a person's face following death. So they may be mementos of the dead, or be used for creation of portraits. Although the eyes are said to be the windows of our souls, when they are closed in death our entire face becomes a mirror of the life it once housed.
This is more than a photographic documentation of an artist's life (as it's not a mementos of the dead but a portrait of life) mask. When photography was a new art form, it was expensive and the process was laborious. "moment mori" (Latin for: "remember that you will die") were often the only time a person was photographed. So a photography was also a memorial  a post mortem photo. 

With using wet plate collodion (tintype) it's another metaphor that something made by us will outlive our grandchildren. Each tintype that is created is hand-crafted, using a method invented in the 19th century, producing an original that cannot be reproduced (without using digital scans). Every plate is individually prepared by hand, exposed and developed within a few minutes. They are direct-positive images formed by pure, elemental silver deposited onto a black metal plate. It is unique unto its subject, producing a photographic fingerprint – as the life mask is also unique like that person whom's face it's made of. 

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