By Aly Song
This wasn’t what I expected at all when I arrived at the beach of Qingdao city in China’s eastern Shandong province.
I was assigned to shoot portraits for a Reuters story on a Chinese airline company. We settled down to plan to board an aircraft with the company CEO, photographing him and other passengers on the plane. So, I booked myself a 24-hour round trip from Shanghai to Qingdao bearing in mind that during the half day in Qingdao I could shoot the green algae along the beaches which appears almost every summer.
However, my plan turned out to be a failure. The weather wasn’t hot enough so there was very little algae. I was about to head back disappointed until I glanced at these women swimming in the ocean. They were wearing full-size masks on their head which looked a lot like wrestler’s masks to me. I could imagine these women coming onto the beach very soon and starting to fight.
I laughed for a while and took some pictures. I discovered that this phenomenon didn’t look strange to the locals at all. Consulting with some other swimmers, they told me that these nylon-fabric masks were invented by a woman about seven years ago and were believed to be good at blocking the sun’s rays. It’s easy to buy one at local swimwear stores as they are now mass produced.
That was how I came across an interesting method for beach-goers to prevent their skin from getting sunburned. I believe that there could be a wider market for these masks because most of the swimmers, especially women, would love to spend as much time as possible on the beach without getting a serious tan. To me, it’s much easier and cooler to put on a mask than to put on lots of sun block cream.