Photography, Covid-19 & Idle Time

It’s been 7 weeks now since Vancouver, and most of the world, began to socially isolate and close their economies. As a photographer, I have a home office where I run my career from (editing, sales, client relations, website and research etc), so I’m set up to be at home for long periods of time. That’s been the easy part so far.

I’ve had 1/3 of my yearly work evaporate as well. These are client projects I spent months last year and earlier this year investing my precious time in to develop and book. But losing them hasn’t been the hard part either. Does it hurt? Of course it does! So why don’t I consider that the hard part?

LOST INCOME ISN’T THE HARD PART? … say whaaaat!

For starters, money is not what motivates me and inspires me. Money is a tool, a means to an end for me, and because it comes at a cost (to me personally, to my family, to the environment), I acquire it and use it with caution. I’ve lost a lot of gross revenue, but my monthly expenses are very low to begin with (by choice), so I’m able to comfortably manage at the moment with savings. The other reason lost revenue isn’t my number one concern right now is because if I was working, it would look something like this: shoot, edit, late nights, unbalanced live/work schedule, squeeze in family time and exercise, sleep, – wash, rinse, repeat. I don’t miss that at all. In fact, I’ve been bouncing around ideas in my head for a few years on how to restructure my photography and videography career anyway, and now I finally have the time.

SO THIS POST IS MORE ABOUT WHAT I’M DOING WITH MY TIME NOW

There’s always a cost associated with time: monetary, neglecting my business, not seeing my family, my health suffers, the travel required is hard on the environment … I always crave more time. But how do I get more of this precious resource in my life? Usually, I simply don’t know when’s a good time to slow down, to buy some time, or just stop and take time for myself (the psychology of grinding away at work comes in to play here). As a working person, taking a weekend to shed some stress is one thing, but taking enough time to sink back into a creative mindset requires even more, it takes weeks. That’s what we normally don’t have, but that’s what we have now.

WE HAVE WEEKS, USE IT

It’s a guilt free chunk of time that we all have on our hands RIGHT NOW. Big picture for a moment: once you leave your teens and university years, you’ll rarely if ever have this again. Idle time is a gift, one that is coming at a high cost to everyone, but it’s still a gift and I want to treat it with respect and use it very wisely.

I mainly work for corporate clients, which requires people for projects to happen. Social distancing has obliterated that market, so I have zero work until at least June 2020 (a total of 4 months minimum). That estimate is revised every day, and now I’m beginning to think my main markets are going to be shuttered till the fall (7 months from the start of the pandemic).

So who’s still working? Mainly it’s photojournalists who are covering the news cycle, that’s still very important yet dangerous work. Studio based product photographers also have an opportunity as more businesses pivot to online selling. Nature shooters probably still can shoot, since they’re away from people and population centres. How about Fine Art photographers? As a corporate shooter, what am I doing?

For example, if I wait till my traditional markets return to business, I’m looking at roughly 7 months of down time. And if I can weather that financially, that would be a long and healthy break, and that by itself would be valuable to me. Personal development is enormously important to a long and healthy life, so 7 months devoted to learning how to cook, getting in shape, trying new things etc, would be a successful use of ones time. If there are other shooters out there taking this approach I respect it completely.

I’m using my time for career development. In my case, I want to take this time to move my career beyond what I’ve already built and created for 20 years. To me there’s more out there creatively, and I want to decide what I like, what I want to do, and how to now involve my business/my life in it.

WHAT’S IT GOING TO TAKE?

That means a lot of things, and I’ve realized it’s going to take real heavy lifting to get there; My relationship with social media, how I market myself, how I divide my time for research and promotion, what type of gear I use, how much of my business is solo and how much is collaborative, and still many other considerations.

Luckily for me, I have invested in myself over the years by creating a strong work ethic, with the education, skills and knowledge on how to be an entrepreneur. It’s the building blocks for my business, a blueprint. I don’t think it’s changed much from the time of door to door encyclopedia sales to modern day social media marketing tools. The medium has changed, yes, but not the basics. So when I first started my business 20 years ago, to when I pivoted 8 years ago, to today, all the skills I needed then are still what I need now. Sprinkle that with learning how social platforms can work to assist me in brand building, client awareness, and sales, and I’m essentially doing the same thing I did when I started out with one client.

I have mentors to be mindful of who’ve guided me along at times, as well as respect for myself and family which guides me on a daily basis. I wish everyone health and happiness as you find your own way through all of this. If you have any questions or simply want to share with me please get in touch. Till then…

British Maritime Museum

In the summer of 2016, I took some time off for the first time in years.  I joined the Cloud Appreciation Club, and simply let my mind wander and open up to new ideas and inspirations. I read more, and one book I sunk my teeth into was an early 20th century swashbuckling novel about the heights of the British Navy, during the time of Lord Horatio Nelson, in the late 1700’s.

I became fascinated by those times, how different they were in terms of materials that shaped their lives.  I was also blown away actually by how similar those times were to now, especially in terms of trade and globalization.  The Brits, and the Spanish and French, were all setting the table for what civilization is like today; global trade routes, bringing in goods from around the world, plantations, plundering the natural world, using and abusing other cultures for the betterment of the West and etc.

I was also very interested in how slow life was back then, simply because they didn’t have electricity yet.  Stoves were heated by burning wood.  Ships were set in motion by the wind. Things were made by hand, and machines run by human effort.  I became fascinated by what they built and how they built them, the materials they used, and how the task at hand was more important than the health of the people who were performing those tasks.  On the Man of War battleships, with three masts, sailors had virtually no private space, ate horribly, had to crouch to walk around, were hardly ever let off the ships during years of service, and slept hanging above the tables and canons.

It was a frigid December day in this small coastal town on the English Channel.  I walked around for hours, exploring the two ships they had there: The HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s Man of War wooden ship from 1805, and the HMS Warrior, an entirely iron built Man of War from 1860 that changed things forever.  These images are a small portion of the images I took that day, and it’s really just a personal interest post today.  I’m not sure where this interest will lead me, but that’s the beauty of it.  Unlike my business efforts,  this doesn’t have to have a plan behind it.