It has been our reality for quite some time now, but the effects the pandemic has had on the travel industry will continue for the foreseeable future. How does a travel photographer get through this without completely losing everything?
I don't need to spell out that it has been a tough time for us all, whether we partake in the travel industry or not. However, when not just your passion but also your job heavily revolves around international travel, it can turn your life upside down and leave you in the dark when you are forced with closed borders and ceased flights. We all have different ways of tackling the situation, and many have undergone a complete overhaul of not just their business but also their everyday way of life. Luckily, humans tend to always find a way to adapt to the situation at hand.
Lockdown Impact on Business
Jordan Banks, an experienced U.K.-based travel and lifestyle photographer and filmmaker, recalls his first thoughts when lockdown restrictions were first announced and admits he was naive back then thinking about how bad the situation is going to be. The news first reached him while on a work trip in Malaysia without causing much concern. However, upon arrival back home in the U.K., Banks was faced with the serious reality when all of his work disappeared almost overnight and more travel restrictions came in place across the world. His work calendar was booked up two years in advance, which meant that many jobs had to be pushed back or completely canceled. Similar to wedding industry experiences, Banks knew that this will have a knock-on effect on his business because once things reopen, he won't be able to shoot everything that had been planned previously.
Working From Home
Unable to travel, Banks steered his business in a different direction by focusing on writing, teaching online, and also pitching editorial stories to magazines and newspapers, alongside other outlets. As the travel industry stood still, Banks used the momentum to pitch stories and work to outlets that needed content to publish, which worked quite well. Furthermore, like most of us, Banks used the time to focus on things that he hadn't had time for before, such as networking, working on personal projects, and print sales. In over 20 years that Banks had worked as a photographer, this was the first time he put out a calendar and a zine featuring his work simply because he finally had time to do it.
It's clear that nowadays, photographers are far more than just camera operators, which definitely comes in handy during unexpected situations like this, when you can turn to different aspects of what your business can do and can be. All the additional streams of income helped Banks to survive and even experience growth in some sectors. He also had more time to submit work to competitions and became a finalist in National Geographic Traveller Competition in the City category and was also a six-category finalist in Travel Photographer of the Year, which helped Banks to raise his profile from the comfort of his home.
To prepare for the future, which may still see travel restrictions in some shape or form, Banks also focused on connecting with more local contacts and clients to land jobs that would allow him to continue pursuing his business without worrying about international travel. Besides focusing on business, he maintained his mental health during this time by enjoying the positivity and energy his young children gave him. Simply being a kid and seeing life through their eyes brought a sense of feeling grounded in a world that is full of uncertainty.
Growing a New Business Idea
Banks advises other photographers in a sector like his to focus on what can be done and what parts of the business can be grown. There are many opportunities that may have been cut short, but they will come back eventually, which means there will be enough money waiting to be spent on resuming creative work. "It’s important to be ready for that and not miss the boat," Banks points out. Travel companies, websites, and magazines will return to serving their audiences who are keen to resume travel once restrictions are loosened.
For example, Banks and his business partner, Kav Dadfar, with whom he runs learning company That Wild Idea, revived their idea of creating a travel photography magazine together. The time was never right due to their workload, but as several magazines stopped their operations during this pandemic, Banks realized this may be the right time to pursue their plan. After weeks of putting a plan together, JRNY magazine was born.
Featuring travel stories and photographic essays from all over the globe, JRNY is on a mission to showcase the best of travel industry by focusing on interesting insights and adventures from photographers and writers. Travel blues are deeply felt by many of us, and this project aims to give back not just to readers with exciting stories and images on good quality paper but also to photographers and writers who have suffered throughout this time by splitting the profits fairly and providing a platform to share their travel stories. If you want to support the magazine or share your photographic stories, you can read more about it on the JRNY website.
Banks is looking at the future of travel photography in a positive light. He believes that after the pandemic, there will be a high demand for good quality imagery instead of brands and media outlets just relying on microstock websites, which may have contributed to professional work being undervalued in the past years. Banks believes that for professional travel photographers, there will be less competition with those who pursue this type of photography as a hobby. Currently, professional assignments can go ahead in certain locations and countries, which would be beneficial for those who pursue this as a business. Lastly, using his personal experience, Banks foresees that image buyers will be looking for quality and concise imagery that fits their needs perfectly.
What are your thoughts on the future of travel photography?
Images used with the permission of Jordan Banks.