It’s easy (and understandable) for Aussies to be completely wrapped up in their own situations as this pandemic continues.
But, sometimes, hearing other people’s challenges and how they’ve powered through can be inspiring. So, we spoke to three photographers who have all been affected by COVID-19 in different ways – yet their opinions and methods of coping interestingly seen to intertwine more often than not.
It’s a bit of a read but it offers a good dose of insight into the current lives of creative professionals working in a field which has been one of the most severely impacted industries during this godforsaken pandemic.
P.TV: How would you describe your workload pre-pandemic?
Alec Bruce-Mason: “Pre-pandemic, work was great. I was shooting 2-3 times a week and the rest of the time was spent editing as usual, events were a major part of my workload.”
Rhys Tattersall: “My workload was mostly consistent but not busy, which was good. I am able to achieve better quality work over a slightly longer time frame in comparison to when it may be busy and you’re almost rushing to get work done.”
Jona Grey: “Fortunately very busy. I was lucky enough to land a full-time agency gig editing videos and social media ads daily in addition to photo & video work on the side.”
P.TV: How has that shifted since lockdown laws were put in place?
ABM: “Well all event work was cancelled almost immediately, bringing the shooting schedule down to 1 a week if I was lucky.”
RT: “Lockdown has changed and shifted this is so many ways. Work actually stopped for a week or two which was an odd feeling. I lost routine and good habits. I did try to put more effort into working with the smaller things and appreciating what I had at home, but that can only go so far. Things are starting to open up now which is what we needed but it’ll be interesting to see what the new ‘normal’ is for this.”
JG: “I was transferred from full-time to contract work during COVID-19 — which means bye-bye salary and hello to getting paid job-by-job. Totally understandable though as my jobs have dipped from about 8 jobs per week down to just 1-2. Also, a campaign I was in the process of shooting had to be put on hold.”
P.TV: Have you had to adjust your approach to your work since?
ABM: “I recently launched a brand that branched off my major work to help small businesses get their products online, so that has kept me busy.”
RT: “I think accepting that it is ok to not be rushing around, to try and relax a little and not have any deadlines. Once you realise pretty much everybody is in the same boat as you, it tends to put things into perspective. Learning to be ok with not having work to do is a great feeling. You’re able to focus on what you actually enjoy and spend time doing that.”
JG: “My work is mainly in post-production (editing photos/vids) so my daily workflow is unaffected by the lockdown. I can still edit, deliver to clients and remain location independent. However, it can be a challenge to work on team-based projects. The long email threads, time zones and overall clarity can be difficult compared to working with a team in-office. As a result, I’ve streamlined my processes and adjusted my prices to match the current economic climate.”
P.TV: Are there any silver linings that you’ve discovered? Anything that you can take away from this and implement in your day-to-day work when everything returns to normalcy?
ABM: “The biggest silver lining is trying to keep learning, some of us are lucky enough to have the government supporting us financially. The best way to think about it is; the government is paying you to upskill yourself’.”
RT: “The idea of ‘normalcy’ is going to be the interesting side of this I think. The silver lining of this is that most of, if not, everything can be done online now, which most of us knew was possible but it was never put into action because of old reason. I want to be able to take the quality of work I’ve been able to do and continue to provide this level of service.”
JG: “Time. Pre-lockdown, I rarely made the time to upskill and get back into other creative interests due to work commitments. Lockdown (not COVID) can actually be a blessing in disguise for people who have been time-poor.”
P.TV: Have you veered from your usual art and tried anything new? If so, what was it and how did you approach it?
ABM: “I started to lean more into motion graphics, 3D design and animation as it’s something that I can do on my own, and, when the world gets back to normal, it’s something that will fit in well with my usual work.”
RT: “I’ve been not picking up the digital camera as much as I usually would. Instead I’ve been taking out the old film one that I learnt on. This has been so refreshing for me – film has a certain way of bringing out a more genuine photo, rather than one anyone can take on their smartphone now. My approach to film photography has always been the same, I would take the camera with me but I would still rely on digital as I am able to asses the photo and correct it if needed. As I haven’t been going out as much I haven’t needed to asses any images, or try to get that ‘better’ photo. Lately, I’ve just been really trying to capture how an image feels or how it makes the viewer feel, and film just makes that process slower and more genuine.”
JG: “I’ve brushed up on more 3D graphics during lockdown. It’s just one natural creative progression from photography to videography to motion design and graphics. I’m strongly against spending thousands of dollars on art school. I find YouTube, Google, mentors and practical experience to be the best teachers.”
P.TV: What discussions have you been having with fellow artists? Are people handling things differently?
ABM: “From what I’ve heard, a lot of photographers and videographers are following a similar structure, just upskilling and grabbing as much work as possible where they can.”
RT: “Honestly I haven’t been speaking to many other people about how they are going. I figured everyone would be in a similar boat. The funny side of it is seeing the non-genuine side of photography start to struggle with no brand deals or travel deals to advertise and make it seem like you’re living a fantasy life. I’ve enjoyed watching the change from a market so oversaturated with this scenario. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts and hopefully will become more niche again. Hopefully, people will buy your work for the quality and time, not for your name or the number of followers that you have.”
JG: “My friends in the travel industry have been hit hard and I feel it too. Campaigns and photo/video work have slowed down and there have been a few zoom meetings to pep each other up and talk through scenarios. Travel creatives have to keep afloat as best as we can because once travel restrictions are slowly lifted, you bet there’ll be a boom eventually. Hotels, attractions and brands that have had slow business during COVID-19 will require marketing content and that’s where we come in. It’s just a shame that there’s a lot of businesses reducing marketing ad spend when social media screen time is at an all-time high.”
P.TV: How do you think this impacts different forms of art?
ABM: “Truthfully, I think it’s helping the artists themselves, it’s really separated the passionate from the hobbyists, It takes a serious passion to keep working on yourself and your art whilst not getting paid to do so, I think we will have a much higher skill-ceiling when we come out of this.”
RT: “That’s a tricky one, as I only have thought about how it is affecting photography mostly. I think each art form will have its own benefit from this pandemic in its own particular way. I can see things like graphic design or painting benefiting from this due to the ‘work from home’ nature the art already has. In saying that, the need or want for those forms may be limited due to the lack of income or work that people are able to commission. All art forms will be taking a hit in some way, but like I said earlier, it’d be really cool to see a more genuine approach to making art, and not have it as it once was before this.”
JG: “From what I’ve seen on social media, photographers are displaying interest in other art forms like video, graphics and AR. There is a constant ‘levelling-up’ amongst the online creative community. I feel the most creative people aren’t bound to one art form but rather they inject their creativity into everything they touch. And lockdown has given us the time to finally explore these different artistic avenues.”
P.TV: What advice do you have for other artists?
ABM: “LEARN LEARN & LEARN. It’s the best option at the moment, teach yourself graphic design, animation, 3D design, lighting, composition, whatever it is you think you’re lacking in. Because at the end of this the competition is going to be tough. Hang in there!”
RT: “That difficult to answer. I’m struggling to not stray from my own advice. I think if possible, try see the lighter side of this, don’t forget everyone is in the same boat and if and when we get over this, there will be so many changes in place, so the best we can try to do is adapt and change with it. Art should be about why you’re creating what you create, not ‘for who’ or ‘what I am creating for.'”
JG: “Use your time wisely. Learn online. Being unique is a scarcity and #Instarepeat is a reality. Upskill so that once we’re in the clear, you can charge more for your new skills and stand out from the crowd. A lot of photographers have been wanting to get into video or graphics for example — now is your chance. Oh, and spend quality time with loved ones. You’ll rarely get another time like this to focus on self-development and what matters in life.”
As someone who can barely take a nice photo of myself, even I found myself relating hard to a lot of what Alec, Rhys and Jona had to say.
Plus, you love to see the solidarity amongst people working in the same industry. Sure, there’s still a healthy dose of competitiveness and a touch of hostility towards *certain* types of creative professionals, but at least they haven’t lost their spirit.
Power through, picture pals. You’ve got this.Image: Instagram / alec_bruce_mason