I got a last minute assignment delivering a package by hand in downtown Beijing, with 26 hours of free time before my flight home. Having never been to China, I was surprised to see the people going about their regular day wearing the scary looking air pollution masks. Both toddlers, school girls, and businessmen appeared to have accepted the fact that they lived in the polluted hellscape usually portrayed in sci-fi dystopias.
Fueled by jet-lag and several sugary dessert coffees, I wanted to investigate how one faces the apocalypse in style.

Words and photos: Aleksander Samuel

Kelly, Cheng Du
My mom started buying me these very expensive masks from a pharmacy, but now I just get these simple black 3M ones from my local convenience store. Usually they only have the regular white masks, but I got lucky and purchased a whole box of the black ones.

Jiang, Wang Fu Jin
I love weird American memes, which are hard to come by using the Chinese internet. Sad Pepe is my favorite. Using a VPN is very slow and hard on my battery, so I usually only go on tumblr while charging.
My mask is from ReSpimask, which allows me to change the filter.

Mr. Johnny, Xianghe
The worst thing about my mask is that people can’t see me smile! I drive tourists around on a rickshaw during the day, when the AQI is very bad, so I have to wear it. I try to talk with my arms and be extra friendly when greeting new customers. My English is also above average compared to my fellow chauffeurs.
I got a N95 model with ridges so you can see the shape of my face.

Zhen, Hong Kong
Hi! I’m a tourist too. Me and my friends are spending a few days in Beijing before backpacking along part of the Chinese Wall. Pollution in Hong Kong is pretty bad too, but not like Beijing. My roommate insisted I wear masks, so she made me bring these cheap ones for me and my friends while in town.
It doesn’t really go with any outfits, but everyone here wears them, so after a while I stopped caring.

Cheng, Wang Fu Jin
They wont let me wear this mask in school, but I always carry it with me. You’d think it was expensive with these cool skull details, but it was just 20 extra yuan. Not like those Chi Zhang ones. I try to dress like a gentleman but cool, y’know? In a big city like Beijing it is important to look special if you want to stand out. Most people want to hide, but I want to be cool.

Xiu Meng, Bai Zhi Fang
After a while I stopped thinking about the mask. It is almost like changing underwear, except people can see it! So it is funny to me that you notice them and want to know more. Of course we wear them. We have to if we want to breathe!
Usually I dress up a bit more, but I’m on my way to badminton practice, so that’s why I’m not wearing a prettier jacket. And it’s so warm today too!

Check out some cool air pollution masks here