A PHOTOGRAPHER recorded Oxford's reaction to the coronavirus pandemic by capturing portraits of people wearing their masks.

In March 2020, when the country went into lockdown and some people started wearing face masks, east Oxford camera enthusiast Martin Stott, 67, started a project to document the differences in the world he saw around him for his first picture book full of pandemic portraits.

The book is called Wear a Mask, echoing scientist Anthony Fauci's plea at the time for collective action to wear face coverings.

Mr Stott said: "Masks were unique, different, interesting and exotic in those days."

The former Oxford city councillor spent a year snapping people queuing at supermarkets, going to open air markets, waiting at bus stops, joining Black Lives Matter demonstrations and waiting to get their vaccinations.

Mr Stott even used his time as a vaccination volunteer as an opportunity to take pictures of people wearing colourful masks.

He said: “I felt it was important to be a vaccination volunteer, but I was not unaware that it was going to be an opportunity to take some photographs."

Mr Stott said that people were positive about being approached for a portrait in their masks. He believes people were happy to have their pictures taken because their masks acted as a disguise.

He said: “From the beginning of June 2020 after the death of George Floyd [in the USA], I started to go along to these spontaneous and arguably not strictly legal demonstrations in the centre of Oxford. Because they were not strictly legal, and people were concerned about being seen and the virus, almost everyone wore masks."

The photographer was amazed by the variety of vibrant masks, from flags and animal print to spectacular patterns.

He said: "People can play with their identity by wearing masks, you can be an actor on the stage of life.”

In the forward to his book Trisha Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care at Oxford University, wrote: "As this striking diversity of photographs illustrates... masking policies have not changed who we are: they have helped reveal who we are."

Although Mr Stott has been taking photographs since he was a child and has even had exhibitions, he feels he has only been a serious photographer for five years. The picture book author has previously published the Cowley Road Cookbook — a book about the social and cultural history of Cowley Road from the 12th century to the present day.

Wear a Mask, Oxford Pandemic Portraits by Martin Stott is now available in Oxford book shops or on signal books’ website.