Shutter shock - Photographers reeling over lockdown on events industry; PM to review proposals
The camera shutters of many independent photographers remain closed — some to the detriment of their studios as the restrictions on all events remain in effect.
According to Stefen Ewers, some businesses lend themselves better to working remotely, but for creatives involved in production, such as photographers and videographers, it is not as simple as sitting behind a computer and pushing full steam ahead.
Ewers has been operating Skkan Media Entertainment (SkkanMe), known for providing coverage to some of Jamaica’s premium events such as Chillin’ on the Farm, Jamaica Rum Festival, Dream Weekend, as well carnival and festivals across the Caribbean for more than five years. The decision to stay in business, he said, “is one that comes from the heart”.
“Right now, we are all working on a whim because we have yet to hear anything concrete from the Government about the reopening of the events industry. I am very much anxious about the outcome with all the conversations going on, but I am not foreseeing the positive for the rest of this year,” he told The Gleaner.
Most of the job opportunities the company has received are primarily in the digital space, but prior to the pandemic, at this time of the year, there would be more work than the team of 10 could handle, Ewers said. But it was not until a few weeks ago, when SkkanMe’s leadman was disassembling the company’s office, that it hit: “All that we have worked to achieve as a team is coming apart.
“I thought to myself as I pulled down everything to the air conditioning unit, ‘I worked so hard for this’, but with the rent, utilities, and other expenses, the company started spending more than what was being made,” he said. “While business with our corporate clients has not ceased, there is still a need to seek opportunities elsewhere. I took comfort in knowing that most team members have other means of income.”
Ewers, like many of his colleagues in the field, believes that the Government must apply the very skill of zooming in on the individual subjects that make up the entire picture in order to formulate a plan to benefit all who contribute to the development and preservation of the events industry.
Trescott Myers, the director and owner of Snap Dat Photography, based in Montego Bay, St James, said that as photographers are facing dried-up savings and a period of looming uncertainty, people would have something positive to look forward to with a phased reopening of the events industry.
“It could be one of two things: ease back into entertainment and events, or provide some subsidiary that makes sense for all of us to consider. We are the only industry that has not received any type of support,” Myers said.
“I believe the promoters and venue owners are capable of meeting the standards so that things do not revert to how it was when the coronavirus hit and for those in production like us. The pan chicken man and promo girls can get back to business and to earning,” he continued.
He estimated that the total losses his business has suffered is in the range of two to three million dollars as a result of clients not requiring the services of event promotion and coverage, which meant no images to post on digital platforms. There was a need to pivot, embrace change, and think “outside the lens” he said, in order to stay afloat.
Another avenue Myers has ventured into is live-streaming weddings, for which the gathering limit is 50 persons, and funerals, which were restricted to 15 persons at the burial site, no more than 10 of whom should be attending as mourners. With persons unable to travel for special events such as weddings and funerals, the photographer said that he was able to find a niche, unlike some of his colleagues.
“The fallout from the pandemic is impacting industries big and small. That includes those of us in the business of photography. It was hard at the beginning, especially with four persons on the team, including additional photographers, one videographer, and one editor, and it is still slow,” Myers said, adding that “recently, the work that comes in is for special photoshoots from individuals celebrating birthdays, one or two corporate functions, but as far as entertainment and the events industry, those are a no-go.”
The photographer said it is a no-go because while he admits to attending illegal parties, he is not comfortable working in environments where persons are not following the basic protocols of wearing masks and social distancing. He already has to consider being six feet apart from clients at photoshoots. “Believe me when I say, a nuh nutn good! Nothing can work in spaces where everyone crammed together,” he said.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said yesterday that the Government will be reviewing proposals submitted by stakeholders regarding the resumption of the entertainment sector.
He said that several proposals have been sent in about how the industry can return to some kind of functionality.
“What I have directed to be done is that the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport; the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, and the Minister of Health, they will be meeting next week to review the proposals … and at the end of that review, we will come back to Parliament and report as to what might be possible,” he said.
He was speaking during yesterday’s sitting of Parliament.