This article originally appeared on VICE India.
Now that we are more than two months into lockdown, we have finally come to terms with the reality that the coronavirus isn’t leaving anytime soon. The virus is now a constant presence in our lives, and with it, are the masks. This new surge in the demand for masks has led to people unleashing their creative best in the form of inventive masks that are as much about fashion as functionality. But ultimately they also, as the name suggests, mask our face and its features—making it difficult for anyone to recognise us. But now, a few photographers across the country have come up with an innovative solution to this problem.
Beena Studios—a photo studio in Kottayam in Kerala—now sells customised face masks printed with the features of the face of the person wearing the mask. "During the lockdown, everyone was wearing a mask. When I went to the nearby store, they couldn't recognise me. So, I was also worried. How can we identify people? I have a studio where I print T-shirts and mugs. I thought of doing the same for masks,” said photographer and owner of the photo studio, Binesh G Paul, to India Today, wearing a mask bearing a print of his nostrils and moustache, with even the mask colour resembling his skin tone. Paul customises white cloth masks and his final product costs only ₹ 60 (approx $0.79).
The trend has become quite popular in other parts of the country too, with several other photo studios having started offering similar services. Billu Sharma, a photographer from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, has put such masks on offer too.
These photographers use dye-sublimation printing, which is a printing technique that uses heat to transfer dye to materials such as plastic and fabric. People can either go to the studio and get their photos clicked, or email their photos and get the masks home delivered. The photo is edited and printed on a cloth mask, and the entire process takes only about 15 to 30 minutes.
While Paul’s venture initially took some time to take off, he claims to have already sold 3,000 masks with a pending order of 5,000 others. The cloth masks are reusable after washing and now he’s planning to incorporate triple layer masks and N95 masks as well.
Maskalike is another custom mask service in San Francisco, which is planning to launch ‘Resting Risk Face’—a line of reusable faceprint masks which can even be used to unlock your phone with its facial ID sensors.
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