The 2019 novel Corona virus has been hitting industries hard, and it is not sparing creative industries.
2020 has been off to quite a bad start, and this pandemic is taking over entire industries. First, it hit tourism, of course, especially China and neighboring countries. It expanded to shipping, which basically affects every other industry automatically. In recent weeks, we've seen a lot of photography events and trade shows get canceled, including CP+, NAB show, The Photography Show, and many more. This has affected brand releases and marketing efforts, and obviously, though it affects us, that's the least of our concerns right now.
COVID19 was first reported in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019, and it didn't seem as big of a concern for the rest of the world at the time, but epidemiologists clearly sent out warnings of how far this transmission can go. Wuhan is/was a hub for international travel from many peripheral Chinese provinces, and the repercussions of that fact is that the growth of transmission has been virus very fast.
Shipping and Manufacturing
One of the ways this situation affects the photography industry on a massive scale is how it is now beginning to affect sales of camera gear. Nikon just announced delays in the Nikon D6, and many more are expected to follow. Now, this might not be as significant to many of us since we can all survive the year without upgrading to the next mirrorless monster, but definitely, with all the factories shutting down, people who make a living out of selling these will run out of things to sell, because shipping has been delayed or because the factory itself was shut down. That's already an entire segment affected by this virus without even being in contact with anyone infected.
Tours and Workshops
Obviously, another way that the virus is affecting the industry is through cancellation of workshops and tours. As advised by the World Health Organization (WHO), we should all avoid any public gatherings that aren’t really necessary. This simply reduces the chances of transmission of the virus by mere proximity.
Respected photographer Elia Locardi has already canceled all of his events until the month of April and said that things might be pushed back even further if things continue to get worse. Read about his side of this story on his blog. It would not be any surprise if many more photographers and event organizers follow this trend, and though it might be unfortunate not just to them but to their attendees, practicing caution and prevention will definitely help all of us get through this.
The Microscopic Level
The biggest and probably worst way that this global phenomenon is affecting the industry would have to be how all the cancellations are affecting freelance photographers. This is a developing situation in Asia in particular, but we can expect this happening on the other side of the world as well if things do not improve in the next couple of months.
Advertising and commercial projects may or may not be affected at this level depending on how big the involved production team may be and how they see the situation, but one way or another, some projects will get delayed at the very least, and it will become at least an inconvenience to the people involved.
Photojournalists are probably the ones, as usual, who are most at risk, and this time, that is even more amplified. Photojournalists go where the news is happening, and obviously, where the news is happening is where the people are. The bigger conundrum in this situation is the fact that most of the news pieces are related to COVID19, and there lies the dilemma that they have to choose between protecting themselves and making a living. It comes to a point where that becomes a black or white choice. Probably second to all the healthcare professionals, the brave photojournalists are at the front lines of this situation not just because they are literally where the news is, but also because the spread of information (accurately) to the public is ultimately vital. So, it would be in the best interest of photojournalists to protect themselves with masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). More importantly, loading up on vitamins, getting good sleep, and proper nutrition will protect them more than anything. (Forgive me for showing my healthcare professional side on this one.)
Probably those most affected are the event and wedding photographers, simply because they are those whose schedules are affected by the trends of the general public. And because the general public is already taking preventive precautions, almost all events, whether personal, family, or corporate are being canceled or at least postponed.
Birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, religious events, concerts, weddings, product launches, and corporate events are being canceled, and in all of those, the photographers and videographers are all affected.
Through a personal survey on social media, I asked photographer friends about how badly they have been affected by this just for the entire month of March. This perspective comes from the Philippines, which had very minimal number of cases of COVID until this week, so imagine how bad it might be for countries that are affected more significantly, like Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and the like.
Answers from my contacts ranged from 4 to up to 12 event cancellations just for the month of March. That may not be too significant by number since there are 31 days in the month, but if you consider the fact that some of these events take 2 to 3 days and that the majority of events, especially weddings and family gatherings, are held on weekends, that could mean that many photographers will have almost no income for the entire month. What’s worse is that clients have also been canceling events up to May or June. Some have even resorted to selling their gear to have something to pay the bills with. Just imagine the financial strain this could be putting on photographers.
What Can We Do?
This particular situation isn’t something we could have prevented, but its impacts on the lives of everyone can be suppressed. We can help the community minimize any further complications by following all preventive measures mandated by credible health agencies. We can help minimize the mass hysteria by using our networks to battle misinformation and fake news and providing compelling images as visual aids. Lastly, we can help one another by sharing resources, projects, and opportunities, especially those who are hit worse by the impacts of COVID19. As humans, as artists and creatives, as photographers with any form of social influence, we can play a role to help our industry and society in general.
Lead image by John Denry Salazar. All photos shared with permission.