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.
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.
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.
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.