Let’s face it: March was not a particularly good month.
It began with me being struck down with chickenpox. Having never had it as a child I knew that it was only a matter of time before I contracted it. So I spent the first weeks of the month feeling (and looking) horrendous. It is the most uncomfortable I have ever felt in my life and the situation isn’t helped by the derision you get from just about everyone else who caught it when they were five and recovered in a matter of days!
Just as I was starting to feel human again, the country goes into lockdown. On 8th March 2020 I took a trip to Borough Market and, until a couple of weekends ago, that was the last time I was more than about a mile from my south London home.
But I digress. March was a write-off and, frankly, the situation has not improved a great deal since then. The reality is that so many businesses have, and will continue to be, deeply impacted by current events.
I am no exception.
What happens when a photographer can’t photograph?
Well I’ve already covered the short-term day-to-day aspects of this in a previous post. Here’s the wider view.
Firstly I cancelled all of my planned portrait and branding shoots – a difficult but non-negotiable decision. My landscape photography also effectively ceased. Natalie and I had planned to travel to New York in March and Colorado in June; both trips will now have to wait. For the most part throughout March, April, and May I barely picked up a camera other than the odd occasion photographing birds and flowers in the garden.
To fill the void I have gone through various stages: reviewing and critiquing old images, experimenting with different editing styles, a comprehensive tidy-up of my Lightroom catalog and ditching thousands of images in the process, refining parts of my business plan, and of course blogging. Strangely I also found myself buying extra bits of gear that I am unable to use for a while in some attempt to maintain a feeling of connection to photography!
The full impact
The unfortunate reality is that events like this are hugely disruptive in every conceivable way – the most immediate and obvious impact being income. I set myself financial targets throughout the year as a means of motivation and I know that these will almost certainly not be achieved. It’s totally understandable and I’d be wise not to give myself a hard time about it but it is disheartening nonetheless.
It also disrupts momentum. If you run your own business, whatever its size, you will know that momentum is everything. It takes a lot of effort to get going and keep going. Relatively small gains can feel like huge steps. Freelancing has so many pitfalls that it is easy to get bogged down in the negative aspects. That is why the wins matter so much. When your momentum gets disrupted it can take all your energy to start up again.
And another impact I have felt is on my freedom. It’s no surprise that I love to travel and faced with potentially a year of not leaving these shores is quite a difficult thing for me to accept. If nothing else the lockdown has made me realise just how much travel inspires and drives not just my landscape photography but my life as a whole.
What does the future hold?
Photographers are gradually starting to get back to work with socially distanced shoots. I’m currently looking at how this might be possible; given so much of my corporate work is based on location I am in many respects in the hands of my clients and the provisions they put in place on their premises.
But with the better weather, outdoor branding sessions are now an option and during lockdown I started to undertake product branding photography which is a new avenue of work I am exploring. The overseas trips will have to wait but I am enjoying the challenge of local landscape photography and appreciating what is on my doorstep.
The logistics of holding a shoot is only the first hurdle, however. One of the reasons I was drawn to portrait and branding photography in the first place is because it is so personal and connected. I love working with people and the prospect of socially distanced shooting makes it feel a little more impersonal and removed. Whether that becomes the new norm, who knows. I hope not.
For now it feels very much a case of starting afresh. Almost like that beginning of the year feeling where you are setting out your objectives.
The goals have undoubtedly changed.
And there is that distinct feeling that the ball has stopped rolling.
But crucially the desire to persevere and move forward is still there. I hope that the second half of 2020 is a better one for everyone.