BEHIND THE MASK

My experience shooting the campaign for Christine Lingerie’s Premier Masks Collection.

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SoHo New York, New York. April 28th, 2020. I am wearing the Botanica Mask.

Hello world! My name is Katrina, I am the virtual creative director and head of social here at Christine Lingerie. On April 28th, 2020 I set out to shoot the premier campaign for our silk masks collection, but I was not prepared for the experience that was about to unfold. I would like to share my story with you, on what was one of the most historic and impacting days of my life.

Moe The Butcher

By: Katrina Eugenia

On April 28th, 2020 I headed out to shoot an assignment as I usually would, except I was wearing a mask. With my tripod and my camera thrown over my shoulder, I walked my usual route from the East Village where I live, to SoHo, my favorite neighborhood, the way I usually would, except I was wearing a mask. 

I would take a left from East Houston onto Elizabeth street. The way I usually would. A left on Elizabeth because it’s my favorite block in the whole wide world. A left on Elizabeth because it’s where I used to live, just two years ago. A left on Elizabeth because it used to be an Italian neighborhood and I’m proud to be an Italian-American. A left on Elizabeth because after that, it used to be where the artists like me lived. A left on Elizabeth because now it’s chic. 

A left on Elizabeth so I could say hi to Moe the Butcher, the last Italian standing from the old neighborhood, or sitting rather, on his wooden chair just outside the red french doors of his butcher shop . He’ll be sitting quietly with more content than all of New York’s New Yorkers. He’ll be sitting outside the butcher shop, passed down to him from his father, wearing his white meat jacket, enjoying the sun. Like he usually would on a gorgeous Spring day like this. Like he usually would for the past ninety five years, except he’ll be wearing a mask. He’ll look up at me with those blue eyes and wave, like he usually would, except he’ll be wearing a mask. And I won’t lean down to kiss his head the way I usually would, because I’m wearing a mask. 

SoHo New York, New York. April 28th, 2020. I am wearing the Turquoise Femme Fatale Mask.

I took a left on Elizabeth. I would tell you I was wearing a mask just like everyone else, but there was no one else. I peered down the sidewalk. No Moe. He closed up for COVID. Probably best. After all, he is ninety-five with a perfect bill of health. 

I started down the block the way I usually would, except much slower. Slower than a New Yorker had ever walked before. The storefronts were all boarded up. Covered in poorly done graffiti. There was not a single person in a single window folding a shirt or spraying a perfume. No crowd outside the Mexican restaurant. No margaritas. The ugliest sight on the most gorgeous day. But standing a storefront away, it was the rosary that made me stop. The rosary that dangled from the old brass door knob with the old keyhole on the red french doors. In the harrowing however peaceful and most novel silence that had overcome New York, I watched it sway with the breeze. And a feeling washed over me that I’d never wish on anyone else. 

Through eyes that began to blur, I approached the door and read the news I feared most. On April 8th, 2020, Moe died of COVID-19. He’d made it all the way to ninety-five without a scratch. And then out of nowhere, as random as a random bullet, he came down with a virus the doctors couldn’t cure, the way they usually would. 

I put my face towards the sky. Trying to endure the sudden hollowness. Pillaged of what once filled my heart, more than I knew until then. Hoping to pour the tears back into my head as to not mess up my mascara. I must remain camera ready. I won’t be able to touch up my makeup, the way I usually would. I went to dab the corners of my eyes. I stopped myself. Don’t touch your face. I brought my hand back down. I turned right onto Prince and then on to Mott. I went to the church the way I usually would. Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The second oldest church in New York. I walked through the metal gates the way I usually would except the church was closed, I was wearing a mask, and Moe was dead. I looked for the sheep in the graveyard the way I usually would, but Huey Duey and Loui were not eating the grass. They were not there at all. Standing in front of the church, I put down my tripod and bags and began to pray. 

I walked down Prince into SoHo and stopped at Greene the way I usually would for a shoot like this, except I was wearing a mask, my heart had been ripped from my chest and the only thing in the street were pigeons. Pigeons in the middle of the street. Pigeons where there used to be taxis. Chirping where there used to be honking. Harrowing and somehow peaceful. 

I sat down on the steps of a luxury store, all boarded up. Suddenly, I was not feeling so camera ready. I hadn’t been to my favorite part of town in more than forty-five days. I closed my eyes and listened for God’s voice. For a sign. For a silver lining. I listened to the birds. It occurred to me that this was a familiar sound. It was the sound of suburbia. The sound of suburbia in the middle of New York. The sound I used to hear every morning on my way to the bus stop in the great Garden State. Except there was no dew on no grass, and I was wearing a mask. Keep listening. 

katrina eugenia, christine lingeire, made in canada, silk masks, silk lingerie, reversible masks, reversible mask, beautiful mask, leopard print mask, silk mask
SoHo New York, New York. April 28th, 2020. I am wearing the Pink Femme Fatale Mask.

And then, faster than the pace that New York once was, I heard a much louder sound coming closer and closer. I felt the city begin to rumble beneath me. I opened my eyes. I watched the pigeons take flight from the cobble stone to the sky, swooping and circling. And then there they were. Gone as fast as they came, blazing through the sky, cutting through the blue. It was The United States Air Force. I recalled my boyfriend telling me to look for the fighter jets. Twelve o’clock, his Dad told him. Look up at twelve o’clock. Right. It must be noon. I smiled behind my mask. Talk about a sign. 

US fighter jets. I thought of my Grand-Pop up in heaven. An Italian-American, just like Moe. A World War Two United States Air Force Vet. Some his last words to me ran through my head, “You’re a fighter. You’ve got my blood in ya.” The show must go on. I must do what I came here to do. What I’m meant to do. Just like every other day, except, I’m wearing a mask. And my heart’s been ripped out of my chest. But I will not take this work for granted. After all, it was suddenly the only work I had. 

The assignment was to shoot a new collection of silk masks for a truly beautiful lingerie and loungewear company that I love and love working for, Christine Lingerie. Luxurious, ever pretty, reversible silk masks with a wire for your nose and a slip hole for a filter. The pictures will be like every other picture shot on the blocks that define New York’s holy grail backdrop for instagram influencers except I’ll be wearing a mask. I would tell you I was wearing a mask like everyone else, but there was no one else. Not really. 

With only the birds to sing I began to shoot. Mask after mask without anyone asking me to move my tripod. Mask after mask without anyone asking me to get the hell out of the way. To get out of the street. No photo bombers. I might as well have been on the opposite coast on a lot at Universal. Setting: SoHo. 

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SoHo New York, New York. April 28th, 2020. I am wearing the The Heirloom Mask.

All the while, I thought of Moe. In between rays of light was the pain of recalling all of the times I’d said, “One of these days I’m going to paint a portrait of you, Moe… One of these days…” How many losses to not find myself faced with the eternal torment of regret? When will I grasp the value of time? When will I understand that things will not always be like they usually would? 

How could someone I hardly knew be such a loss? This man who I had spoken to for five or ten minutes on a handful of occasions. This man I had smiled and waved to everyday for no more than a second over the course of two of his impressive ninety five years. I couldn’t recall a significant conversation, or any specific thing he’d said. In fact, as Italians go, Moe was pretty quiet. So what was it about Moe? What did he teach me?

I fired the shutter, switched masks. Changed my shirt. More posing, more pictures.  

Moe taught me that all it takes is one second to bring someone joy. 

One second to make eye contact. 

One second to smile. 

One second to wave. 

One second to wave to your neighbor. 

One second a day, to impact someone’s life forever. 

Moe taught me the value of neighborhood. 

Gesturing to the other wooden chair, Moe taught me to sit down.

Moe taught me to talk about the weather.

Moe was one of the infinite reasons I was proud to be an Italian-American. 

Moe taught me to be quiet. 

Moe was not at the mercy of his inbox. 

Moe kept a subtle eye on me and the block. The way I know my Grand-Pop does from heaven. 

Moe showed me how wonderful it must be to have grandchildren, for there was nothing sweeter than seeing the way his granddaughter helped him run the place, everyday. I thought of how she looked at him, with her bright smile. Her bright smile that it took her five seconds to share with me too. 

If he had taught me all of this, I could only imagine how much he must have taught her. I knew what it was like to lose a Grand-Pop I was used to depending on. I hated to think of the pain she must be in. And how she will have to learn to put one foot in front of the other, remembering everything he taught her, without him.  

One foot in front of the other. 

Around the world, one foot in front of the other. 

I was out there shooting. One foot in front of the other. 

Following the Italian-American museum on instagram has been excruciating as they roll out obit after obit, Moe’s included. 

Little Italy is losing the last from the old neighborhood. 

New York is losing its longest standing New Yorkers. 

The United States is losing the last of our WWII vets. 

Around the world, families are losing their patriarchs. 

Around the world, families are losing their matriarchs. 

And I can tell you first hand, there’s no greater challenge a family will face. 

We are losing our most rare, and precious creatures. 

In one foul swoop, more at once than we’ve ever seen before. 

Earth is losing its OGs.

We’re losing our most valuable players. We’re losing our greatest sources of wisdom. We’re losing the people who taught us everything we know. The individuals that were the foundations that held families together. 

And now we must find a way to keep on, together. 

To keep on keeping on. 

This is one tiny aspect of how COVID-19 has changed our lives. But it is one I felt was worthy of shedding light on in hopes that those who read this will be reminded that in losing so many of our elders, we have a tremendous responsibility to continue fighting, the way they fought for us. Even if it means wearing a mask.

In hopes we will remember to honor their lives by living ours. By living our lives with what they taught us in our hearts. By living our lives with family and friends. With food. With sunshine. With hard work. With peace and quiet. With celebration. With integrity. With gratitude. With courage. With love. 

SoHo New York, New York. April 28th, 2020. I am wearing the Femme Fatale Mask.

Follow me on instagram: @KatrinaEugenia

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