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Used Protection

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when face mask use was essentially required to be in public, more than 94,000,000 disposable face masks were tossed into the trash every week[1].


Well, most were tossed into the trash.


This series, created during the pandemic in 2020-2021, examines masks that were not disposed of properly and found in situ.


Masks were generally seen in two lights: as a necessary barrier between humans, protecting one from the other or as a forced intrusion on the user’s personal freedom of choice, resulting in their use – and non-use – becoming a political statement.


Used, having protected the user and those they encountered, these masks were discarded like condoms, sanitary pads or even underwear, dropped on the street after the act. Laced with DNA, these were casually tossed aside as if there was no danger associated with another person contacting them, evidence of a lackadaisical attitude about them by the user.


Or perhaps the disdain held by many for their forced use led to them being deliberately tossed without care? Was it a silent protest, rejecting the government’s intrusion into personal liberties and the users’ momentary compliance that led to such an insensitive disposal?


Or was it because the role of the mask lessened or numbed the human experience of interaction along with “social distancing” and the users were begging to be seen, heard, recognized, and felt as quickly as the opportunity presented itself?


Whatever the reason for such thoughtless disposal – less than that usually afforded a used tissue – the masks were the common and shared detritus of a period in our lives where we trusted those next to us less than ever before and where we were forced to hide our identities to protect ourselves from those around us.





Used Protection


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