Wedding and portrait photography are, at their core, about working with other people. The photographer’s interaction with couples or sitters is central to the creation of meaningful images. Some photographers were able to find ways to work and make creative projects during the pandemic, but for others the social distancing and stay-home orders meant the end of business—and creativity—as they knew it.
When we reached out to the Rangefinder + WPPI community in April and May to find out how photographers are meeting the challenges of the pandemic, one thing we asked was:
“What is the first photography related thing you want to do once the stay-at-home orders are lifted?” We wondered what folks missed about their work and creative lives, and what their answers might reveal about what they value most.
[To read the responses to questions on other topics, including how photographers are finding new business opportunities and what they are reading, watching and listening to learn and be inspired, visit the Rangefinder + WPPI community survey homepage]
Photographers Want to Get Back to Work, Pursue Creative Projects, Reconnect
We grouped responses to our questions into five categories. Of the 156 people who answered, a majority said they are eager to simply get back to work. A few mentioned financial concerns, however most people cited thing such as the opportunity to create, to “photograph a packed dance floor at a wedding,” or to interact with clients as the aspects of their businesses they most anticipated. One photographer yearned for the pressure of strict timelines and being creative under pressure. “I really miss being innovative on the spot. There is nothing more fun than that feeling of knowing you did something fresh and exciting and had the odds against you while creating it. I feel like that’s when we make our best work, and it’s just really motivating to me.”
A third of respondents were excited to pursue personal creative projects. Others were looking forward to reconnecting with the photo community by going to galleries or joining colleagues for a photo walk. A couple of folks were understandably cautious. “I am fine with hanging back until we come together to organize best practices, instead of jumping right into things,” a photographer wrote. “I think community-building and mental health should be valued both by vendors and clients during the recovery stage.”
Reopening Photography Businesses: A Closer Look
Of the 87 photographers who said they most look forward to getting back to work, 40 were anticipating working on either boudoir, maternity, senior, little league sports or portfolio building projects. “I want to photograph my senior year clients!” one person wrote. “Those kids have been through so much and I cannot wait to give them something they’ve been looking forward to.”
Twenty people wanted to photograph a wedding, and 16 said they were excited to make portraits: “I want to photograph someone other than myself!” someone exclaimed.
Five people specifically mentioned looking forward to collaborating with others as part of a creative process. One respondent imagined the emotion they would feel when they were able to reunite with vendors and work on a project. “I can already feel the tears forming from getting to be together,” they wrote.
The Hunger to Create
The desire to get out and create new photographs was evident in the responses of 50 people. After being confined for weeks, it was no surprise that many photographers wanted to pursue creative projects and, in-particular, capture images of the environment and natural world. One respondent hopes to “[Photograph] the grizzlies again in Katmai” National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Travel was also high on the list of things people look forward to. For one respondent, “Travel to really anywhere that’s not here!” would do. “Might end up on a cross country drive and photography project,” they wrote.
Others were focused on a variety of different personal creative projects, while four respondents said they were looking forward to making photographs that specifically address the pandemic. One wrote that they wanted to create “so many photos of people hugging. Photos of reaching out to touch and be touched.”
Go here to read more about how photographers are meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
About this survey: In April and May we emailed members of the Rangefinder + WPPI community to ask how they are responding to the pandemic. We also shared the survey in our weekly email newsletter, via our social media channels, and on the Rangefinder and WPPI websites. The goal was to create space to share ideas, insights and resources. One-hundred-ninety people answered at least one of the five questions we asked. Special thanks go to all of the members of the community who participated.