Atoms is partnering with the Montreal-based open source photo platform Unsplash to normalize the idea of wearing masks in public. Although the idea of wearing a mask to prevent the spread of disease has been around since the early 20th century, when the Spanish Flu (which has an unfair name because it originated in the United States) spread around the world in 1918. Since then, masks gained popularity in Southeast Asia as pandemics like SARS and Bird Flu threatened public health there. But in North America, the idea of wearing a mask to prevent illness only became a part of everyday reality earlier this year, as COVID-19 spread throughout.
Americans’ resistance to wearing masks has only further caused COVID-19 to spread around the country, even though countless studies have shown that masks prevent illness, and subsequently, deaths. One recent study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington stated, “Those who refuse masks are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.” The researchers predicted that 200,000 people could die from COVID-19 in the United States this fall, but that “mask wearing could reduce forecasted deaths by over 45,000.” Yet, according to one Gallup poll, only 44% of American adults say they “always” wear a mask when outside their homes.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started earlier this year, searches on Unsplash for images with masks have increased 1,007%. Atoms and Unsplash hope that the images will help people get used to the idea of masks as a part of their daily routine. Unsplash tapped a number of photographers within its network to photograph people in everyday situations wearing the Atoms Everyday Mask. There’s a woman taking refuge under her umbrella [https://unsplash.com/photos/EJjsElRaPuU] by Brian Asare, children going to school by Kelly Sikkema, and a woman traveling by Khitam Jabr.
“When the spread of COVID-19 reached a critical point in New York this spring, Atoms quickly reallocated its resources to create quality masks that carry the same features of our shoes—they’re comfortable, lightweight, and antimicrobial,” said Atoms co-founder Sidra Qasim. “Now that masks are required in many parts of the world, Atoms partnered with Unsplash to promote the use of masks to help contribute to the decline of COVID-19. The photos that are a result of the collaboration reflect the new reality in which we live through photos of people doing everyday activities while wearing the Atoms Everyday Mask.”
“Masks have become part of our culture but there’s still a stigma attached to them that they portray weakness or are uncool,” added Unsplash co-founder and CEO Mikael Cho. “Masks are no longer only for the operating room. They are part of our everyday lives. By partnering with Atoms to freely distribute visuals of people wearing masks in everyday contexts, our aim is to offer a new visual language that portrays masks in a new light. Media is the largest influencer of culture. With more images in the media coming from Unsplash than anywhere else, there’s an opportunity to change the perception of masks and in turn, help prevent the spread of Covid-19.”
Atoms and Unsplash hope that their partnership will help normalize the use of masks in media, and save lives. The Unsplash and Atoms photos are available at unsplash.com/collections/48974961/atoms-masks-.