The Masks We Wear

We wear masks for many reasons: for fun, for protection, or to make a statement. In turbulent public settings, obscuring one's face can protect an individual from retaliation while evoking fear and uncertainty in others. Donning the mask of a cultural, political, or religious figure can lend that person power and further his or her legacy. Those who wear masks to protect their faces from environmental hazards may also end up sending a message of caution to outside observers. In many cases, though, masks play a more lighthearted role, allowing the wearer to take part in a festival and become someone (or something) else for a time. I've gathered here a few recent images of people wearing masks, covering their faces for a wide variety of reasons.

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  • AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

    The Symmetry and Shapes of Makha Bucha at Wat Dhammakaya Temple

    Thousands of Buddhists gathered at Thailand's Wat Dhammakaya Temple on Wednesday to observe Makha Bucha, a religious holiday that marks the anniversary of Buddha's mass sermon to the first 1,250 newly ordained monks 2,558 years ago.

  • Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

    Beijing's Toxic Sky

    In Beijing, awareness of the dangers of the polluted sky is now on the rise, thanks to growing data on its air quality. China will "declare war on pollution," Premier Li Keqiang told parliament in an opening address in 2014. A tougher environmental law took effect on January 1, while a new environment minister took charge on Friday.

  • Thomas Peter/Reuters

    A Visit to Aoshima, a Japanese 'Cat Island'

    Aoshima Island is one of about a dozen "cat islands" around Japan, small places where there are significantly more feline residents than people. In Aoshima more than a hundred cats prowl the island, curling up in abandoned houses or strutting about in the quiet fishing village.

  • Ilya Naymushin/Reuters

    A Winter in Siberia

    Based in Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, the Reuters photographer Ilya Naymushin captures scenes from around the region, portraying everyday life as Russians work, play, and survive in a place infamous for its harsh winters. This collection of photos from the past winter shows some of the ways people are coping, including vehicles modified for the winter, hand-built ice-fishing huts, ice sculptures, traditional festivals, sporting events, and more.

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