Russia’s War in Ukraine Will Leave a Lasting Scar on the Photography Industry 

Russia’s War in Ukraine Will Leave a Lasting Scar on the Photography Industry 

A week into the war, many start to ask about the long-term impacts of the war. As a Ukrainian-born writer with family and friends in Ukraine, I am keeping a very close eye on the news surrounding the war. A war on such a grand scale will have a profound impact on most industries, photography included. Here is my analysis of how this war will echo in photography. 

Before going further, I would like to acknowledge that many more important things are happening in the world than photography. The Russian invasion of Ukraine will have wide-reaching consequences on tens of millions of people and not just photography. Yet, since Fstoppers is a photography publication and I am a writer covering photography, I will focus only on how this full-scale war is affecting the photography industry. 

Gear Import, Export, and Sales

Buying cameras or any other camera gear will likely become more difficult as companies cut exports of their products into Russia. As companies such as DHL cut their shipping to Russia, it will be more difficult to get new stock for Russian camera shops. Moreover, the more the Russian ruble loses its value, the fewer people will be buying new gear. Camera sales will take a dramatic hit in the countries directly affected by the war. Moreover, as more and more companies announce sanctions on Russia, it would not be surprising if photography brands stopped shipping to Russia as the world distances itself. Moreover, companies producing gear in Ukraine will face difficulties with running their business due to the ongoing war. It would not be unusual to find factories that make gear and offices looted or destroyed.  

Creative Jobs in the Region

Being a hotspot for many ad campaigns, as well as a major market for luxury goods, Russia is a known destination for many people who wish to work in the creative industry. Unfortunately, the ongoing war has rendered most creative jobs non-existent, and many creatives, such as Amer Mohamed, are leaving the country for good. Furthermore, the commercial photography sector will take a massive hit as international brands pull out of Russia amid the war. It is also worth noting that the creative industry in Ukraine and Russia overall will see a steady decline as the war continues.  

Productions

Ukraine has an extremely strong and powerful production business. There have been countless Hollywood movie productions and music clips shot in Ukraine and Kyiv. The reason Ukraine is a popular destination for productions is because of an incredible rental as well as production crew network. The workforce, as well as other costs, are a lot lower in countries such as Ukraine or Russia. Naturally, due to the ongoing war, it will not be possible to facilitate any movie or photo sets, which will lead to logistical challenges as well as increased costs. Additionally, producing in Russia will also be challenging because of the current ban on travel in the EU and US airspace. 

Programmers and Software Developers

Both Russia and Ukraine are known very well for their IT strength. Some of the most popular jobs in Ukraine among young university graduates are in the IT sector. This means that a lot of companies in the photography and videography sector rely on software developers in both countries for their work. A temporary shortage of software developers is bound to slow down how fast updates are released and new products are developed. Companies such as Luminar have already published statements of support for Ukraine as well as statements of support for their teams in Ukraine.  

Photographer Deaths 

There are civilian casualties in every conflict. Yet, with the Russia-Ukraine war, unarmed civilians are the intended targets of an army. There will certainly be a lot of creatives who will give their lives in the war, either fighting or photographing. Although according to international conventions, press members, such as photographers, are not allowed to be targeted, there have already been photographers who died as a result of this war. 

Retouchers

As far as I know, most good retouchers come from Russia, Ukraine, or Belarus. The quality of work produced by these people is unparalleled, and the world's leading photographers such as Lindsay Adler, are known to use retouchers from Ukraine and Russia. My retouching crew consists of Russians and Ukrainians. Ukrainian retouchers are fighting for their lives, while some Russian retouchers will not be able to accept payments as easily as before due to Russian banks being disconnected from SWIFT. Moreover, a lot of jobs have had to be put on hold because of this. There will be delays and major problems for a large portion of fashion and beauty photographers such as myself who work with people from Russia/Ukraine/Belarus.  

Laws on Photography

It is currently prohibited to fly drones unless authorized by authorities in Ukraine. Moreover, taking pictures can be seen as espionage. Seeing that there is a crackdown on media in Russia in general, amateur photography can be sometimes perceived in all the wrong ways by an increasingly paranoid regime. It is fair to say that the ongoing war will take a negative effect on photography clubs, and photographers from these countries in general. 

Prison Sentences

The traditionally left-leaning creative industry in Russia is likely to face crackdowns by the government as more and more photographers, directors, and artists express their support for Ukraine. Being illegal in Russia, some photographers can find themselves behind bars, serving a prison sentence. 

Recession

While I am not an economist, it is speculated that this war will lead to an increase in prices and hence a decrease in budgets for photoshoots. What COVID-19 has shown is that the jobs don’t disappear, but they do become smaller and budgets tighter. While the war in Ukraine is not likely to cause a worldwide recession, it will be a contributing factor to the damage already caused by COVID.  

Russian Arm Being Renamed Into U-Crane

To end on a more or less positive note, I want to share that cinema rental companies stand with Ukraine! Developed and built, in Kyiv, Ukraine, this robotic arm is used to film action and chase scenes. The company that invented this device: Filmotechnic, has officially rebranded its product into U-Crane. 

Closing Thoughts 

These are only a few other consequences of the war in Ukraine, these particular ones are directly linked to the photography and creative industry. While it may seem that the war in Ukraine won’t affect someone across the pond, truth is, it will, albeit slightly. 

What are some of the effects of the Russian war in Ukraine that you see? I would love to hear your thoughts! 

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14 Comments
AC Daley's picture

Sincerely appreciate your perspective. Though the countries of Ukraine and Russia could easily be swapped out for USA in this sentence: “It is currently prohibited to fly drones unless authorized by authorities in Ukraine. Moreover, taking pictures can be seen as espionage. Seeing that there is a crackdown on media in Russia in general, amateur photography can be sometimes perceived in all the wrong ways by an increasingly paranoid regime.”

Christian Lainesse's picture

"What are some of the effects of the Russian war in Ukraine that you see?"

One month before the current round of hostilities, I bought a vintage russian camera on ebay. It took two days from the middle of nowhere in eastern Russia to Moscow, where it sat for about two weeks before being cleared to leave, and it's been seemingly going around in circles with a tracking update every one to two days in UAE... If it never arrives, at least it wasn't super expensive lol

Michael Krueger's picture

Maybe it will show up months after you've forgotten about it. Lol

Bjarne Solvik's picture

The Ukraina war will have a terrible effekt on so many that talking about practical problems for photographers is a detail of less importance. High oil price and lack of harvest in Ukraine and trade barriers toward Russia will create high prices on food in a already hot marked. People in poor countries will not, if they can get, afford food. Potentially it will create riots that makes the Arabic spring a walk in the park.
Russia is returning to live behind a iron curtain and are already returning to food rations and needs. This is a huge tragedy if this does not end. Putin did more harm to his people in a day then good in his life time.
The western economy have been on life support from central banks since 2008. Corona first, war in Ukraine are major. Expect major problems and rich people in food lines, even in America.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

He spent all his life to come to that day...

Scott Wardwell's picture

A maternity hospital is essentially flattened with unknown casualties and we should be worried how this is going to affect creatives going forward. As a group, photographers are rather self-absorbed if that is the take-away from this post.
Normality is something that is not coming back anytime soon.

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

A Ukrainian born photographer writing about how the invasion of Ukraine will affect photography, two weeks into the conflict and putting that into the wider context of the tragedy, somehow does not rub me the wrong way as much as a Western aviation website lamenting the loss of the worlds biggest airplane in the fighting around Hostomel airport without even mentioning the human tragedy that just started to unfold at that moment.

Willy Williams's picture

It strikes me as being incredibly naive and shallow to whine about the plight of the Ukrainian creatives when the larger issue is the immoral, wholesale destruction of Ukraine by a despotic madman seemingly inclined on destroying the world, with utterly no regard for the non-combatants of Ukraine. I might be more sympathetic if the author chose to return to his homeland and get into the fighting with his countrymen and women.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Willy, thank you for reading and commenting. Fstoppers is a photography website, I will only discuss that here.

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

This must be a time of terrible agony for you, worrying about family and friends, seeing such destruction happening in your home country. Possibly in the city where you grew up.

I share your pain.

I hope your family and friends are alive and in one piece, and in relative safety.

I bet that for the first week or so after the invasion began, your mind was not anywhere near photography.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Thank you so much for your kind words, Tim!! Yes, the first week or so was incredibly difficult as I couldn’t focus or do any work whatsoever.

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

I understand. It was the same for me. Only over the last few days I'm able to pick up pieces of my own life again, and with extra mouths to feed at that!

Michael Krueger's picture

Gonna be hard for the rest of the world to get those vintage soviet era lenses as well, while browsing ebay I've noticed a lot of them ship out of Russia which is no longer possible.

charles hoffman's picture

The Korean War brought the technology of Japan in the form of the Canon r/f. Vietnam solidified the Nikon F as the workhorse of photography for 20 years.
And the current conflict in Ukraine is bringing the integration of the past 10 years into the living room of the world.
Shooting with mirrorless Sonys and uploading through cellphones or livestreaming drones covering other drones on the attack is accelerating the use of the post-pandemic tech that just didn't work until a few years ago.
And there's no demand greater than covering a war in real time to move technology along