Smiles behind the masks

What you see in the video above is a series of photographs I took around my hometown (Orvieto, in Umbria, Italy) in the last few days.

I purposely intended to take photos of people wearing safety masks. This is quite unusual for me, a photographer specialized in portraits, where everything in my pics revolves around people’s faces, and I try to reveal people as they are, and bring their best hidden secrets to light.

A face with a mask is only half a face.

And yet I specifically asked people to wear their masks, regardless or not whether they were wearing it at the time, maybe because they were drinking coffee, now that we can finally go to a bar and ask for one, or maybe walking on their own, far from the madding crowd.. or perhaps simply getting a breath of fresh air with no filters at long last…

Let us face it: none of us is happy with having to wear masks. Masks make breathing difficult, cause eyeglasses to fog up, irritate skin, increase sweating, and even more so now that the temperature outside starts to rise.

A mask is a real pain-in-the-neck.

But, let’s face this too: apart from the fact that there are rules and regulations to be abided by, and it is mandatory to wear masks in indoor public places, and in any circumstance where safety distances cannot be maintained for any reason, (be it one metre, two metres, four metres, well.. that’s another story…), masks and social distancing are the only options at our disposal, in order to protect ourselves from contagion.

Luckily, we have had zero new cases in Umbria for a few days, nevertheless, we must still abide by the Laws. Also, we have not reached herd immunity yet in our Country, nor in the rest of Europe, therefore contagion is still a serious threat, until a Coronavirus vaccine is ready.

At the same time, if it is true that “eyes are the mirror of the soul”, then masks are tools that protect us without hiding our true selves. Masks do not prevent our souls from coming to light and reveal themselves.

If we smile, then it is our eyes that reveal our smiles.

And God knows if we need to smile. We need a true confidence booster to start on our new post-lockdown lives. A smile is a good start. Smiles make miracles. I think we are ready for that.

So, that is why I took photos of people smiling behind the masks.

I understand many of our friends from abroad are not allowed to travel to Italy yet. Our borders will soon be open, but the Governments of other Countries might make different decisions as to when theirs will.

But the time will come when we can welcome you again.

I am a professional photographer and I mostly do portraits, but I will not suggest you book a portrait session with me for “smiles behind the masks”. This is simply a personal project, a testimony of what has been happening, something that perhaps we can talk about to our children and grandchildren.

Therefore, when the time comes, if you see me around Orvieto with a camera hanging from my neck (which happens quite often) just ask for one pic (or maybe two) and smile behind the mask.

I am sure we will smile together.