Is the Pandemic Keeping Your Photography on Lockdown?

With COVID-19 basically celebrating its 1.5-year reign of terror with new strain variants, how have you been holding up? How have all the restrictions kept you from pursuing the craft?

Let me begin by saying that if you think that this article doesn’t apply to you and your situation at any point in the past 18 months, then you are probably coming from a privileged place and I wish that you continue to be safe and comfortable. However, it is safe to say that for most readers, most photographers, and other creatives, it has been a terrible year and a half.

Context 

As of writing this, my country is implementing its third hard lockdown since the first one in March of 2020. Since then, we have been on varying levels of lockdown that our government refers to as “Community Quarantine,” and the overall response to the pandemic and all the deaths has been deficient, to say the least. As of today, our department of health logged in a total of 14,749 new COVID-19 cases in just one day, and it has been around this number for the past week. 

Images in this article are ones taken from my balcony or in the vicinity of my home.

You can probably understand at this point why all activities deemed non-essential have been prohibited. That includes outdoor recreation, non-essential travel, and an overall halt in most industries. In terms of photography and film, I’ve seen countless professionals who have had to sell their gear for quick cash when their projects and events continued to get canceled for consecutive months at a time. Literally hundreds of photographers in my social circles have gone and found other ways to earn money either temporarily or permanently. Those who still have been lucky to be able to continue working still face more expenses amidst the relatively slow flow of new projects. It’s basically the industry on life support and only a lucky fraction has been getting enough of what they need. 

With many countries going on lockdown again due to the rise of cases of the COVID-19 delta variant, it is safe to assume that creatives from all over the world are experiencing the same things one way or another and that the pandemic really isn’t over for most of us. 

Photography as a Hobby

Even though I do photography professionally, I still consider myself a hobbyist as I spend more time doing it for fun and recreation than for profit. That said, I think the pandemic experience for me has been quite similar to most hobbyist around the world possibly with variations due to their local pandemic response and their overall socioeconomic situation. 

At the start of the pandemic, photography was what kept most of us sane and hopeful. I live in a condominium complex with pretty decent views of the nearby cityscape, so that definitely gave me something to shoot for quite a while. The internet and social media were also very helpful for most hobbyists, as we were able to participate in and conduct online workshops to sharpen the saw in the meantime. Admittedly, we thought the pandemic would only last a few months, and most of us held on to the hope that these activities gave us. Online workshops, online communities, shooting whatever we could see from our windows, and a sudden interest in photographing food, toys, plants, and whatever else was found in our homes. However, as the number of cases continued to rise and the months kept getting longer and longer, most of us began to experience fatigue — kind of fatigue that seems to make us want to avoid the things we used to do before the pandemic as they remind us of all the restrictions and hindrances that imprison us right now. Consequently, there was an observable decline in the activity of online photography communities to the point that they were only partially revived whenever a camera manufacturer would announce a new product. 

Professional Photography During a Pandemic

The other side of my photography was of course not spared from the effects of the pandemic. Before COVID-19 even hit, being an architectural and real estate photographer wasn’t in demand to begin with. This kind of photography was considered a luxury for most clients in the developing country where I am from, and that was even more amplified by the pandemic. My clients are a mix of local land developers and international architectural firms, and none of them were spared from the struggles that the pandemic brought. There were a few exceptions who sent out inquiries every now and then, but most of them admit to having a much lower budget than before. Many photographers gave in to lower offers as well because to them it was better than not having any income at all, and it is quite understandable that this happened. 

Coping 

All of us tried to find effective ways to cope with all the changes. The pandemic has been hitting all of us left and right. If you’re lucky enough to have evaded the virus for the past 18 months or have been lucky enough to have survived it, it doesn’t quite make us immune from the psychological and emotional effects of this global disaster. 

At the beginning of everything, we all found ways to cope. Some found it comforting to be able to stay home for a change and spend some time with family. Some found it a delight to be able to be work from home, and some simply enjoyed the extra personal time. A lot of people took some time to learn things they’ve been wanting to learn but never had any time for. That is why at the onset, many people were into learning photography and other crafts while educational content on almost every social media platform was doing so well. There was also a rise in people creating online content through YouTube, Facebook, and the fast-rising video platform TikTok. For the first few months of the pandemic, all the hopeful energy that people had left in them was spent trying to stay productive while staying at home, and this did indeed keep us sane and happy for a time. 

As the pandemic extended and as it keeps on extending, the scenario is very much different. Now that so many have died and have suffered from the effects of the virus and virtually everyone has suffered a form of loss one way or another, hope has been depleted. A huge portion of the world remains imprisoned in their homes as the virus continues to threaten whatever is left of our sense of normalcy. There are definitely places as of now who have gotten back a bit of their normal lives and are now able to go outside without wearing masks and now even able to travel again, but the risks are still there, especially for countries that have low vaccination rates at this point. 

Though our experiences may differ and our losses may vary, it is without a doubt that the craft and/or profession that we all are passionate about is still suffering from the pandemic. I wrote this article to illustrate my personal experience and what I see around me, perhaps as a way to show that if you are experiencing the struggles, the losses, and the exhaustion, know that you are not alone. 

How have you been holding up? We’d love to know your story.

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12 Comments
Stuart C's picture

Yes it impacted me, I didn't get out much at first, then decided to try some stuff at home, then did some local shooting, now im back to just scooting about finding shots. The pandemic has almost suited my style though, trying to find original compositions in lesser known locations, or the classic driving around spotting shots then pulling up to grab them.

This is a field on my way home from work (im classed as a key worker in the UK so was still travelling to our workplace), id like to think a lot of people have learnt that there is so much more to shoot than honeypot locations and its helped open up the creativity of a lot of us.... that's gotta be one positive to take from this?

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Definitely! I believe the same is true for me. A lot of us got used to the accessibility of remote locations that there are so many beautiful places to see that are much closer to where we live.

Tom Reichner's picture

Nicco Valenzuela asked,

"How have you been holding up? We’d love to know your story."

The pandemic hasn't had much of a negative effect on my photography at all.

As a wildlife photographer, I travel to do most of my photography. Since March of 2020 when the restrictions started, I have road-tripped to:

- South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana for two and a half weeks

- Oregon for 3 weeks

- California for 7 weeks

- Montana for a week

- Colorado for a week

- California again for 2 weeks

- the Olympic Peninsula for a week

- southern Arizona for a month

- Oregon again for 5 weeks

And in early September I am heading to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia for 5 or 6 weeks.

I just keep living life the way I always have, and do not let the virus or the government restrictions stop me from doing what I love.

Yes, I have gotten sick with the virus a couple times, but it wasn't that bad. I got better after a few days and never had to go to a hospital or doctor or anything like that. If we are in great health and have a strong immune system, then our bodies heal quickly and resist most of whatever comes along.

If anything, the pandemic has had a slightly positive effect on my photography, as a few things have been better because of the pandemic, such as .....

- easy time finding available hotel rooms

- cheaper prices on hotel rooms because of much less demand

- friends able to go with me on photo trips, because they had off work because of the pandemic

The only negative effect of the virus that comes to mind has been that for several months, restaurants were closed to dine-in eating. I really like to eat at restaurants and I did not like it when we had to get our food take-out and then go eat outside or back in the hotel room or in the car. I like to eat sitting at a proper table - it is just a more comfortable experience and provides for a more festive atmosphere and conversation.

I am doing what the author asked - telling MY story as it relates to the pandemic. I realize that other people have been adversely affected by the virus - had loved ones die or gotten real sick or permanently lost their jobs. But the author did not ask us to express compassion and sympathy for others, so that is why I did not go on about that in my response. The author only asked me how I was holding up and to tell MY story, so that is all I am doing here.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

We're all happy for you, Tom! :)

James Dayvis's picture

Each time you contract the virus, it's highly likely you pass it on to others. Down the chain, people will probably have been hospitalised or even died as a result.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Yeah it's obvious that he doesn't care. I really hope he didnt pass it on.

Michael Krueger's picture

The lockdown in the Spring made it easier for me to get out and travel. Wasn't working due to the virus so had plenty of free time, gas dropped to $1.25/gallon so it cost next to nothing to drive around. Ended up buying a state park pass for Minnesota and renewed it this year, so I'm in nature more than I used to be.

I used to photograph small concerts at local venues and supported the local music scene but hasn't happened since March 2020. Music scene returned but I've distanced myself from it for personal reasons.

North Dakota seems to think Covid is a hoax still or no different than the flu. Had a mask mandate for a few months until the state government decided it's illegal to issue a state wide mask mandate. Restaurants were take out only for awhile yet bars remained open because they were labeled an essential business.

I live on the border of Minnesota and North Dakota, it was like living in the twilight zone when one side of the river had everything shut down and required masks while the other side was business as usual.

Tom Reichner's picture

I love what you said about your state and the people who love there! Especially that there is no law requiring you to wear masks. That is great! What state is it?

Michael Krueger's picture

I'm a Minnesota resident but live right by North Dakota. North Dakota was one of the last states to enact a shut down Spring of 2020, and it only lasted 2 weeks. Haven't had another shut down in North Dakota since, everything remained open(although restaurants were carry out only for awhile), just dealt with a lot of event cancellations. The Governor finally issued a statewide mask mandate in November and by February the House of Representatives passed a bill so that a statewide elected official or the state health officer may not mandate an individual to use a mask, faceshield, or other face covering. Governor couldn't veto it because it passed by majority in the House and Senate.

Meanwhile in Minnesota things shut down right away in March 2020 and were slow to reopen, masks were mandetory for nearly a year, businesses had to close again in the fall. Bars were closed several times and dealt with reduced hours at times when open, so anyone near the border of North Dakota or Wisconsin just drove further to drink. Night and day difference living on the border of a liberal state and a conservative state and how they handled the virus.

I took advantage, bought a Minnesota state park pass and enjoyed being the ONLY person at some of the parks I went to. Camping and all amenities were closed including restrooms so no one bothered to go.

Tom Reichner's picture

You are very fortunate to live so close to North Dakota, where freedom is prioritized over health, and people can decide for themselves how safe they want to be, instead of having politicians force them to live in a way that they may not choose to live.

I live in Washington, a state with extreme regulation and restriction, where people cannot do as they choose because the government has taken so much control over our lives instead of letting us make decisions for ourselves.

Kirk Darling's picture

As a retail portrait photographer with a residential studio, yeah, it's been a quagmire for my business.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Hope things get better soon