32 minutes | Jun 16th 2020

Smiling through Barriers: "Mask Smiles" with Laura Fuchs

In the midst of what feels like every day brings more challenges and unveils more hard truths, our episode this week is dedicated to recharging through moments of hope, grace, and connection. Our interviewee is Laura Fuchs and she is a photographer living in New York City. With a degree in psychology from Barnard and ten years of photography experience, Laura brings incredible empathy and connection to her art.

When the pandemic hit, Laura realized as she walked around New York City that not only did people seem scared, but they weren't even looking at each other anymore. In response to that, she found herself trying to smile at people through her own mask. One day with a passing stranger's returned "smize" she realized that, despite masks, smiles could still be acknowledged and returned and just how special that felt. She began trying it out on a few people by asking if she could photograph them smiling behind their masks and “Mask Smiles” was born. 

Laura shares passionately that this project is not to invalidate how hard this time is. Not everyone can smile right now, and she is aware of and respectful of that. She reminds us, “These are smiles of resilience, these are smiles of strength.” And that in the face of all this trauma, it can biologically change your state to force a smile. She has dedicated her project to encouraging emotional connection at a time of physical separation, and has done so in a way which proves how possible that is. 

Follow Laura’s project on Instagram: @masksmiles. You can scroll through it, or you can submit photos of you, your loved ones, or those in your community, smiling behind your masks. You can also check out Laura’s other work, including amazing coverage of the protests in New York City, on her personal page: @laurasfuchs. 

Let’s help Laura teach people that we can connect through masks. Let’s find ways to stay connected in the face of such divisive times. And let’s get behind this message that we are in this together. It’s our best way through it. 

Read more about Laura's interview and the self-care activities from the Playing to Live clinical team inspired by her story on our blog.  

Do you know someone working on the front lines of the COVID-19 response? We want to hear from them. Please connect us with them by emailing us at info@playingtolive.org. And finally, please subscribe to our podcast, rate us, leave a comment, and share the podcast with others who you think may enjoy it. We need your help to share this important story.

A special thanks to Laura for her time. Thanks to Josh Carter for the theme music (find more at https://prettylittlegoat.com), and to Lindsay Bingaman for writing our blog.