The Age of Masking

My decision to embark on this body of work was elicited by three reasons:

1) Having had a tumor removed from my shoulder bone with a subsequent collapsing of oneof my lungs and a post-op pneumonia in November 2019, I was at high risk to have seriousconsequences should I contract COVID-19, hence I entered a strict and prolonged isolationthat continues to this day.

2) My portraiture business since the beginning of the pandemic became an oxymoron. I felt the need to continue my photography practice and self-expression, even just to retain a semblance of mental sanity during an extended period of psychological and economic hardship.

3) I desired to explore a new visual element the pandemic had rapidly imposed onto our everyday image: the mask. Never before have I delved into the concept of masked portraiture but I have always been intrigued and deeply touched by the work of a photographer I had the privilege to meet here in New York, Phyllis Galembo, whose vast and powerful body of work I find enormously inspiring. Her work focuses on masks and masked humans around the world.

Obviously I had only one subject at hand: myself.

I decided not to use a large format camera but instead opted for medium format, which would ease the process of focusing on my face with an increased depth of field. I dusted off from my arsenal an ancient Mamiya C3 camera with a sheet film back (6×6) and started cutting, with scissors, a bunch of orthochromatic negatives from a box of large mammography x-ray sheets that had been banging around my studio for years.

The square size of the resulting negatives triggered in me yet another thought: It was almost as if I was taking passport photos!

This was another interesting element in relation to my socially deprived “sheltering in place” and impossibility to travel. Hence I decided the working title for the series would be “Passport Photos to Nowhere”.

The days go by, slowly and yet, frightfully fast. My only temporal reminder is the clapping and cheering for Health Workers sprouting from the nearby buildings everyday at 7PM.

Some of the selected images from this work, so far, are decidedly dark, others are quite selfdeprecating and others are perhaps replete of dark humor and a desire to laugh, rather than cry.

They all mainly document my sheer existence, a necessary reminder for me, as never before in my life I have been this long and deep removed from all social interactions, work engagements, the city, the sky, the wind, the sun on my face.

When shall this body of work end? My guess is as good as yours.

I simply don’t know, and as the days go by, I feel I know, understand and can predict less and less, not only about the pandemic, but also about the increasing turmoil affecting most things: from our health to politics, race relations, the economy, constitutional freedoms, the survival of the planet, my photography business. Everything.

For the first time in history we are all institutionally masked: we need this uncomfortable”wall”, built right on our faces, to protect us from others and vice-versa. The mask removesour facial expressivity, it

impedes breathing, eating, speaking and kissing, it isolates us all,more than ever before, paradoxically, in order to stay alive.

Reportage di Giovanni Savino

©Giovanni Savino, The Age of Masking

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The age of masking by Giovanni SavinoThe age of masking by Giovanni SavinoThe age of masking by Giovanni Savino
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