“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” says commercial photographer Sandeep MV about whether masks are still something we need to wear in public. And rightly so given the rise in cases worldwide, especially in the USA and India. The manner in which the pandemic in India personally affected Sandeep MV got him thinking about creating a Covid-19 related photoshoot. Highlighting their importance but keeping it eye-catching, he produced a slightly off-beat yet relevant set of images.
We started off with soft blue medical masks around two years ago. For a while, that’s all everyone wore in public. Then we started seeing colored ones come in. The men here wore white masks and the ladies black (to go with the choice of clothing of the different genders of the citizens here). A few people got creative and started bringing out makes made of silk, some in linen. And then polkadots, stripes, denim, and other patterns soon followed. But what I struggled with (and still do) was finding a decent one that went over my long beard without creasing it. I couldn’t find one locally and had to get a couple tailored that I’m still not 100% happy with. It was less about comfort and more about presentation. I’ve got a beard that extends a couple of inches below my chin, and the medical masks used to crease it heavily after even five minutes of wearing one. Turning up to meetings and removing my mask was awful. My oddly upward curled beard would stick out like a sore thumb, and no amount of brushing could straighten it out. And while they are no longer mandated in the outdoors here, I still wear my mask. As the philosophical Sandeep says, the potential consequences are far worse than the discomfort of wearing one for some hours. Meanwhile, if any bearded gentleman has a recommendation for a good mask, please drop a link in the comments.
The Essential Photo Gear Used by Sandeep MV
Sandeep told us:
- Sony A7R IV
- Sony FE 24-70 mm f2.8 GM
- Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8
- Sony Sonnar T* FE 55 mm f1.8 ZA
- Zeiss Milvus 1.8/35 mm lens
- Zeiss Otus 85mm f1.4 ZE Lens
- Sony FE 135mm f1.8 GM
- Manfrotto tripod & Monopod
- Profoto Strobes (B1, B1x, B10, A1) with modifiers
- Tether Tools Cable
- Capture One Pro
- Mamiya RB67 Medium format Film Camera
The Phoblographer: Hi Sandeep. Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.
Sandeep MV: Photography happened accidentally. As with every other IT Guy, I used to do it as a weekend hobby. I never knew that I would be quitting my IT job to pursue my hobby/passion as a profession. Here I am today doing what I love the most.
The Phoblographer: What camera gear do you use for your creative work?
Sandeep MV: I am a Sony Artisan and currently use a Sony AR7 IV with G-Master lenses like 24-70 mm f2.8 85mm f1.8, Zeiss Milvus 35mm f1.4 for fashion and editorial, mainly for advertising projects and other editorial projects.
With regards to lighting, I am a Profoto Mentor for India, and I use Profoto strobes and Modifiers for both indoors and outdoors. These lights are sturdy and trustworthy. I believe your images are all about how you light your subject, and these lights have never failed me in my projects. I believe investing in the right product will help you achieve your desired results. I do not compromise on my vision.
The Phoblographer: The idea behind the topic is easy to understand, but please tell us why you chose the oxygen mask theme for your photoshoot.
Sandeep MV: The current situation we all are in gave me the Idea to shoot with a High Concentration Oxygen Mask. Yes, Covid-19 has affected every one of us in some way or the other.
I personally have lost four of my family members to the virus, and I was hospitalised for more than 50 days; all those days, I was wearing the mask. This gave me the idea of shooting with an oxygen mask as a concept and spreading awareness.
The Phoblographer: Was this an indirect (or direct) jab at those who claimed face masks were cutting off our oxygen supply?
Sandeep MV: It’s not a jab at people who say that face masks are cutting off your oxygen supply. I wish no one goes through what I have gone through. Each breath we take is damn important. As a person who has suffered both mentally and physically, I know how important it is to be safe than sorry. I can say this – “Today, I feel naked without wearing a mask.”
The Phoblographer: What was the reason behind the red, yellow, and green lighting the room in this shoot. They aren’t exactly ICU or hospital ward-specific colors.
Sandeep MV: We all know the ICU is well lit and well-ventilated place. However, once you experience it as a patient who is there, fighting for life (like I have been through), it is all different colors. What better way to convey that than in shades of Red (death), Yellow (hope), and Green (life)
The Phoblographer: This shoot seems to touch on another issue plaguing mankind, albeit indirectly: deforestation (since flowers and flora provide oxygen for mankind). Was this also one of the ideas behind the photoshoot?
Sandeep MV: Yes, now currently, the world is battling Covid-19, but it’s not far when we all will be battling for oxygen for real if we do not care for our environment. We all are late; however, we still have time. Let’s wake up for ourselves and for our future.
“Today, I feel naked Without wearing a mask”
The Phoblographer: What was the photography scene like in India at the height of the pandemic? How did you and your fellow professionals adapt?
Sandeep MV: Adaptability is the only way of life. We adapt to the change or perish, whether it’s photography or any other profession. Talking about the photography community in India, we all have accepted the reality and are being more responsible and creative.
The Phoblographer: “Fear has been rising and rapidly spreading like wildfire” is a statement added alongside the Covid-19 shoot. With so many outlets for information today, why is fear-mongering still an issue?
Sandeep MV: Most of us fear only one thing in life – death.
The world has seen four waves of Covid. Even though we all are vaccinated and also learning to live with it, the fear of testing positive is always around the corner. The fear of getting tested positive or someone close getting affected will make us fearful.
Information and other precautionary measures are all around us; it’s we who can put an end to this if we follow them and try eradicating this one.
The Phoblographer: It’s been over two years now, and masks are still commonplace in most parts of the world. Why do many people hate the idea of face coverings so much?
Sandeep MV: Well, we were not used to these accessories all this while and all of a sudden, we all are asked, requested, or forced to wear them. I would respect everyone’s freedom of choice to wear or not, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.