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Positive photos help Milwaukee cope with COVID-19 stress

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Posted at 7:18 AM, May 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-25 08:18:29-04

People have passed the time in different ways over the last couple of months with so many aspects of society and the economy closed.

Patrick Chaves, a student at Milwaukee Area Technical College, has been spending his time photographing what he calls "the faces of COVID-19."

It started as a final project for an MATC photography class, but Chaves enjoyed capturing the photographs so much that he's continued to do them.

He's photographed more than 60 people.

The public can view the photos on Chaves' Instagram page.

Each photo shows a person with a mask on, but viewers can swipe the photo to the side to reveal a second photograph, of the same person, with his or her mask off.

Each person is smiling in the second photo. Chaves has included the hashtag #KeepSmilingMilwaukee on each post.

"When you see somebody with a mask on, you don't know what their emotion is. You don't know how they're feeling, or who they are," Chaves said. "My goal was to capture people with their masks on, and then also to show what's happening behind the mask."

Chaves hopes that seeing images of Milwaukee's diverse population smiling will cheer up the people who look at his photos.

"They seem happy to take off the mask. They seem free," Chaves said.

Lakiesha Russell, Founder of the Evolving Chair Counseling & Consulting Agency, said she thinks positive images like Chaves' photos can help brighten someone's day during this bleak time.

"For me, instantaneously, his photos made me feel good," Russell said. "I just started smiling."

She mentioned other artwork, like drawing or coloring, as well as music, mediating, praying, enjoying the outdoors, and even watching a favorite TV show as ways people can add some happiness to their days as our society rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I would encourage people to spend at least five to 10 minutes a day doing something that fills your cup," Russell said. "Find something you enjoy."

While Chaves hopes his images spread positivity, he understands the stress and hardship coronavirus has caused across Milwaukee.

"I know a lot of people struggling because of this," Chaves said. "So even though I'm showcasing those smiles, to try and create that positivity, we still have to be real and understand what's going on."

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