Well, here we are in week 2 (in Ontario, Canada) of STAY-AT-HOME as we battle the war against the coronavirus and it’s resulting sickness, COVID-19.
How are you doing? I’m not sure how I’m doing, personally. Actually, I think that is my passive-aggressive way of saying I’m struggling. It’s a scary time, it’s an inconvenient time, it’s an oppressive time, it’s an uncertain time - for everyone, and even more so for people who are elderly or vulnerable health-wise, and for those who are self-employed and/or running small businesses.
With our requirements (in Canada) to stay home and practice social distancing, Portrait Photographers are hit pretty hard – just like massage therapists, hair and nail salons, etc., we simply CAN NOT do our job without interacting with other people. As much as we would love to photograph you and your family over video-conference, that’s just not going to happen. All our upcoming sessions and portrait events are cancelled and our income has come to a halt.
I was thinking back to a session I shot in January (see below). I used a zoom telephoto lens for nearly the entire session (I love the creamy bokeh effect this type of lens creates – the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 in case you are wondering). This particular lens doesn’t actually ALLOW me to get closer than about 6 feet from my subject and still focus and take a photo. Could I shoot a family session while maintaining social distancing? ABSOLUTELY. Will I under today’s mandated stay-at-home situation? NO WAY.
In the past week, a new type of photography session has burst on to the scene and is gaining popularity and a great deal of media attention. Perhaps you’ve heard of ‘porch portraits’ or ‘front-step sessions’. In theory, the photographer maintains their ‘social-distance’ by shooting from the street or sidewalk, and that’s pretty easy to do if all involved are understanding and abiding.
However, what is happening here is NOT in accordance with all of the strong recommendations and advice coming down from Canada’s governing bodies and medical professionals. As much as I would love to argue this in non-pandemic times, photography is NOT an essential service.
Portrait Photography involves continuing to operate a non-essential business. Portrait photography involves the gathering of people. It involves at least one party (the photographer) leaving their home to provide a non-essential service. All of these things are not acceptable in our current states of emergencies and government mandates. Photographers offering any type of in-person sessions are simply not abiding by the rules that are so necessary to move us through this battle as fast as we all want us to move. They are, in their own individual way, risking health and civil liberties. They are not leading by example.
Furthermore, by continuing to offer in-person services, photographers – and I’m referring to those who are running legitimate businesses – risk financial penalties, voiding insurance coverage, and being denied access to the government crisis funding currently being rolled out for small businesses.
Finally, the PPOC (Professional Photographers of Canada), which us members see as our guiding force, “recommends canceling or postponing all photography sessions involving people”. Full stop.
While I actually really love the theory and energy behind COVID-19 Porch Portraits, they are quite simply irresponsible given today’s level of pandemic response. And for portrait photographers who are struggling with business – as we must all be at the moment – it’s a slippery slope to shooting, say, a ‘Driveway Session’, or a ‘Backyard Session’, or a ‘Local Park Session’… the latter of which is just business-as-usual for many modern-day family photographers.
Photographers, and families considering engaging with photographers at this time, PLEASE stop. Only united will we win this battle against COVID-19 in a timely manner. And when we do, the sun will still come out and the leaves on the trees will still bud – and we will all have come to realize how treasured our family is and we will be filling family portrait photography calendars around the globe. (Scroll down for a HOT TIP on what NOT to do during a front step photo.)
STAY AT HOME.
**Please forward this blog post to anyone you know who needs to hear this message right now!**