When you come to Asia, you see people wearing surgical masks everywhere. They're in the market, on the train, in the restaurants, airports, parks, even at work.

The masked people are unavoidable. It's weird for westerners who ussually only associate surgical masks with hospitals. That's why we call them surgical masks.

But in Asia surgical masks are worn for any number of reasons and can be purchased in any one of the thousands of 7-Elevens sprayed throughout the cities.



A few years ago, I was admiring my friend Xiao Xi's instagram photographs. I loved how he was able to photograph random people in places like the MRT or on the street. I had always been interested in taking photo's of people, but never had the courage to go out and do it.

When I asked him about his technique, he shared a video with me that a young American street-photographer named Eric Kim had made of himself doing street photography.  The video is like a how-to for shooting street photography, and it inspired me to go out and try it, which I did, and I instantly loved it.

For me, going out and doing street-photography was fun because it was more about the activity of doing it instead of the quality of the photograph. The photograph just becomes a reminder of the interaction.

In the first few rolls of film I shot, I noticed I had taken a few shots of people wearing surgical masks. I was really interested in these photos. There's a certain mystery to them. So I started a street-photography series of people wearing these surgical masks. I would literally go out and hunt for them.



I started imaging a person. A girl living in a black and white world who always wore a mask. She would wear it anytime she went out. Shopping, eating, walking around, she wouldn't leave home without it.

She had very few friends, and even the people who knew her had never seen her whole face. She had only a partial identity. It wasn't that she was hiding anything in-particular, she was just choosing not to show it.



I always felt there must be things me and my family never shared with each other, but secretly wanted to. Some pieces of information or expression we kept concealed behind our own "masks".

A few months ago I mailed each person in my family an envelope containing a surgical mask and asked them to take a photo of themselves wearing it. I then asked them to write something they felt they had always wanted to share with the rest of us, but maybe never had the chance or never felt comfortable with.




"My dad. He died before all of you were born and i didnt have the greatest relationship with him.

I never felt loved by my father. In fact, I was pretty much always afraid of him. I have early memories of trying to get his attention, looking for praise, and wanting to be "daddys little girl". But even in wanting his love, I always felt fear. Never safe.

My dad was a tall, large man. He was an only child, and never really interacted with us(I'm sure six kids were overwhelming!) He didnt know how to show fatherly love or really be a father..My mom loved us and we knew it but raising six kids so close in age was difficult and exhausting. And my mom would always say, "wait til your father gets home" to stop our acting out.

I knew my dad liked to drink. Alcohol was a big part of relatives getting together. But the older I got, the more violent my father became. When I was 14, my sister and I were having an argument, my dad came up to me and hit me so hard on the side of the head, he broke my eardrum. His hands were Large... there were broken dishes, loud,angry fightings, and having to call the ambulance more than once because my dad would fall somewhere and nobody was strong enough to pick him up. I never felt safe around my dad. There was always fear lurking around. I became a very troubled, rebellious teenager. angry, hurt, and fearful...

Having my children brought me a whole new world. I loved being pregnant. I loved giving birth and being with my children. I was so happy to be able to stay at home and raise my kids. And I vowed that my children would always know they were loved and safe and protected from harm. They would have no reason to be fearful.

I vowed never to hit my children in the head or face. And NEVER tell my kids "wait til your father gets home". Thats saying he's the bad guy. He'll let you have it and straighten you out. I wanted the "perfect" family, with Love and Joy abounding.... Then one day my world fell apart. And I had failed. My earthly father, I felt, had failed me. My heavenly father, I felt, had failed me. And now I had failed my children. I had loved them but I hadnt kept them safe. I hadnt protected them. I became angry and hurt and fearful. All over again.

As a teen I ran away. Now where would I run. I even asked God to please let me somehow die, so it would all go away. So I lived in fear and became my fathers daughter.

The rest is history....What I'm saying to my kids, is that I felt I had failed as a mother. That I hadnt protected them and kept them safe. I know now that isn't true. I may not have been all that I should have, but I did not fail to protect my children. Life is not "perfect". We dont have total control of everything in life. It took me on another journey that let me lose them all for a time.

To end this, I say to my children how proud I am of all of you...of where you all are in life now. And I'm at a better place, as a better person in life now also...I would never have let you all know this about me, about how I felt, because I never could have started this conversation between us...I feel freed somehow.

I feel healing in writing this. And maybe I will be a little more understood also. Not that it matters necessarily, because I know how much you all love me. I know I am safe within my family and my family is as "safe" as one can be in this world. Thank you all for loving"



"One of the things I know that many parents might regret is when they have children and they don’t have many parenting skills.

I didn't have a clue as a father how to raise children and it was often a daunting task attempting to do the right thing so they would have a healthy well-rounded outlook on life. I went a particular path that I thought would be good based on the resources that were available to me at the time. Since we as a family spent a good portion of our time in the US Coast Guard down south it turned out to be religion and the bible as a guide.

I now think I could have done a little better instead of thinking faith was going to raise my children. I now feel more moderate and maybe that comes with age and time, which softens some of us.

I would tell my children now that if I had something to do-over it would be my role as a father-teacher-mentor. "


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"Growing up I remember telling my mother I wanted to adopt children from other places, but never said I wanted to have kids of my own. But I was afraid of commitment and responsibility to another person. Afraid of true love? I didn't even understand what that was.

At 22, I still had no intentions of having children. I had been through so many obstacles and life trials. I had no idea who I truly was or wanted to be, but I knew it didn't involve kids. My dad always told me " If you want to wreck your life right now..have a baby" How could I be responsible for another human being? I was selfish and afraid. of success, and of failure, but I knew that my life was headed for greatness..

at 22, I met a man. A man i became connected to in many ways, and at the same time i didn't think he would be someone who would change my whole existence in so many ways in such a short period of time.

I was almost 3 months when i found out i was pregnant. I was in shock. I was scared. I felt alone, angry and didn't know what i wanted to do. I always said i would never have an abortion..But was this what i could handle at this point of my life. I had just spent two years of my life locked away. I had just started my schooling career, just got a place, just got a car. I was afraid...afraid of commitment to another human being, of failing. Would I be a good mother? Could I afford this? Was I ready? I cried every day, and prayed every night.

I decided though, that yes..i could be these things for this unborn baby. With help, or without. This wasn't a fairytale, it was reality and i was choosing my reality, and my fate in this moment.I decided to become a mother.

I had serious complications during my pregnancy. Preclampsyia is what they called my condition. Stress on my babies growth rate, stress on me. Stress with the father who was my boyfriend. I had so much fear, so much doubt. I cried every day and prayed every night.

I went to the hospital sick at 6 months pregnant, and was told id be admitted and induced. I was suffering liver and kidney failure and extremely high blood pressure. I was told that myself and my baby could die.

This is when all fear for myself left. All selfishness, and doubt left my body. Instead of fearing for myself and what I would do, I feared for my daughter. I knew at this moment what being a mother was all about. That unconditional love that can't be found anywhere else. I had no doubt that i was going to be the best mother and provider for her for the rest of my life that i could be. I would do anything to protect my unborn daughter. I prayed to god before i had an emergency c-section to keep my daughter safe. That if he didn't take her from me..I'd dedicate every part of my being to her.

Taliyah was perfect. Healthy and small angel. My prayers were answered. I cant explain the emotions I went through during the next month. There are no words that can help you understand. All I had was love. No fear, no failure, no regret.

Today I can't imagine my life without her. I was meant to be a mother at the time I became one. I don't question if I'm a good mother, or not. Failure isn't something I fear, because it's not an option. There is so much fear in the unknown. My daughters love wipes that all away.

To know love, is to be wiling to give your life to keep a person safe, to sacrifice, to know love is to be a parent. A good mother."


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"I always knew that I was different when I was young, and when it came to my sexuality. I can remember being eight years old, and already having an interest in boys. I may not have been able to recognize or understand it, but it was there. Playing house, playing you show me yours and I'll show you mine, these were things that interested me, and interested me for one reason. These "games" or "experimentation", were ways for me to look at other boys naked.

It wasn't until I was 12 years old that I really knew I was gay. I knew I was gay because I had an understanding of what homosexuality meant in its most basic form. I knew what sex was, and I knew what sexual attraction was. I recognized in myself, that I was interested in sex with others boys versus other girls.

Finally coming to this realization at such a young age presented me with many obsticles, emotionally and mentally. The 90's were a different time than today, and homosexuality wasn't as accepted as it seems to be now. Throw in the fact that I went to a private Christian school, and was raised Pentecostal, and I found myself feeling very alone. I had no one to talk to, no one to ask questions to, no one to understand me, no one to help me understand myself.

I didn't have any friends that I could have told at that age, and in that time. The word would have gotten out, and I would have been labeled the fag, or the queer.

I also couldn't tell my family, and family should be the people you can tell anything to. I was raised in a military home, and my father was a man's man. I always felt loved by my father, but always felt like he expected me to be a man, but in the way he felt a man should be. Real men didn't like other men the way I did.

I remember being over at one of his friends house when we lived in Alaska. I was playing in back with my dads friends two daughters. The oldest one had dressed me up in a maids dress, and sent me out to show everyone. I was having a good time, but my father was furious when he saw me, and very embarrassed. He took me into a room, made me take off the dress, and told me men don't dress like girls, that it wasn't normal for me to be playing that way. I didn't want my father to see me the way he talked about other gay people, so I knew I could never tell him.

I never felt like it was something I could talk to my brother about either. He was three years older than me, and had already developed a healthy interest in girls by the time I knew I was gay. We also didn't really get along that well when we were in our teens. I guess I never really had any interest in telling him, but I'm not sure he would have wanted or cared to listen anyway, and I doubt he would have understood. He always saw me as the weird little brother, and an embarrassment to him. I'm sure he knew that I was different, but he never said anything to me, or asked me.

I spent the better part of my teen years, and into my twenties feeling very alone in the world. I felt unable to tell my family, my friends, and I felt unable to even really accept it about myself. I tried my best to hide it, change myself to what I thought the world considered normal, and all it did was destroy me. Three times I tried to take my own life in my teens, with my sexuality being top of the list. I suffered, unable to reach out to the people closest to me, yet so far away from me at the same time.

It wasn't until my late twenties that I finally came out to my friends and family. I had finally reached a place in my life where I had excepted myself and was happy with who I was sexually, and it didn't matter anymore what anyone thought of me because of it. "



"I sometimes felt it was hard for me to express certain feelings I had about growing up. It's not that I felt it wasn't allowed, I just wasn't sure how to go about doing it.

By the time I got around to trying to face some of my own feelings about what had happened in the past, it seemed everyone else had moved on.

That being said I feel bad about being such a downer sometimes, but in contrast to that I felt a strange pressure to be happy. As if it was my duty to be happy and prove that it was possible. To set a good example to everyone maybe. I sometimes felt I needed to be successful and do things the right way for the sake of everyones sanity. Be the one who could do things the right way.

I felt guilty that I might have appeared to be successful. As if my life was better then others, or as if I had things more together in life, yet, inside I didn't feel better or more successful or as if I had anything together. And that made me feel even more guilty. 

I feel bad about the way I treated my brother when we were younger. I wish it had been different, but I don't think I knew how to handle the situations we found ourselves in. It was all very intense and there were very few breaks. I wasn't mature enough myself, and I was angry about so many things. But in spite of it all I have a lot of good memories with my brother from when we were young. And I still remember those.

I always wanted to apologize to mom and dad for not trying harder to support them when they were going through everything. It's so easy for me to be self focused that I often forgot how difficult it must have been for them. They tried very hard, did the best they could and did it mostly alone. Or maybe thank-you is better.

I'm very thankful for the family I have actually. In reality there's very little that we don't know about each other. And I'm lucky to have parents that allow me to be open and honest with them when I choose to be.

Maybe my family is the only group of people who really know the me who wears a mask, and the me when it comes off."