Portrait photographer Anna Soriano turns making protective masks into a family affair

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      As a portrait photographer, Anna Soriano shows people at their best.

      With women, she likes to take it a notch higher through glamour. This is why she makes gowns for them to wear for the shoot.

      “I want them to look like celebrities,” Soriano tells the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “I want them to look like they just walked out of an Oscars awards night.”

      Sewing is one of the survival skills she acquired as a young woman. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and masks fell into short supply, the craft became useful for the South Surrey mom and realtor.

      Soriano began making cloth face masks, and she donated dozens of her creations to a seniors’ assisted-living facility in White Rock, where there was a virus outbreak.

      Word spread about what the Filipino woman was doing, and soon her friends were paying for her masks so they could also give away face coverings to frontline health workers across the Lower Mainland.

      Soriano recalls that she started before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. and the Public Health Agency of Canada in April recommended the use of nonmedical masks to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

      “I knew that it would be a preventative measure,” she says.

      Soriano relates that she always reminds the people receiving her masks that the face covering is just one way of protecting everyone’s health.

      “You still have to wash your hands, and you don’t put your hands on your face,” she says.

      In order to continue her personal donations of face masks to various institutions, Soriano sets aside a portion of what she gets from paying clients.

      She has heard that a similar thing is being done by Winnie Tan, a personal fitness trainer and a common acquaintance with photographer-friend Dean Guzman, both also Filipinos.

      Guzman provided the Straight with a copy of a letter from the Langley Food Bank, thanking the Tri-Cities-area-based Tan and family for their donation of cloth face masks to the facility.

      “Your masks are wonderful and will help protect our staff as we are handing our food to the less fortunate,” the letter reads.

      Winnie Tan models one of her favourite Pretty Wings mask creations.

      As someone with an economics degree, Soriano observes that shortages in medical-grade masks and protective equipment during this pandemic have exposed the risk of relying on other countries to produce essential products.

      “Why are we not making these ourselves?” she asks.

      She has raised six children, and three of them are living at home with her. Her 86-year-old mother is also with them. They’re tight-knit, and making masks has become a family activity that has brought them even closer together.

      According to Soriano, her children have learned to live simply during this pandemic. They have also acquired a greater appreciation of the value of charity.

      “We enjoy what we’re doing,” Soriano says.

      Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter @carlitopablo

      For those concerned about visiting a doctor's office because of the pandemic, a telehealth provider can put them in contact with physicians and other health-care professionals.