PHILIPPINES, Manila. Threatened, pushed, and exhausted are a few experiences of a photographer as they face the COVID-19 pandemic. Most photographers are freelancers who are losing a combined income of US$5,381,976.48 (₱268,661,175), according to recent statistics ILostMyGig.
Photographers face financial crisis. Freelance photographers are significantly affected because of the quarantine lockdown. It happened to Jilson Tiu, who is a freelance photographer. He lost his livelihood in a snap as he shares his experience in a featured article. He said, “”I usually have a busy year, lots of projects and clients, but when the pandemic started everything was gone. I thought the media outlets who know me will hire me to cover COVID-19 but no one came.” He was one of the first to cover the outbreak in the country. But when he applied for accreditation to cover the COVID-19 pandemic a news outlet left him out. He added, “I was burning through all my resources. As a photojournalist, we don’t really worry too much about electricity or water bill because we are usually out shooting, but now, I’m stuck here at home.”
In an interview with Transcontinental Times, Voltaire Fernandez Domingo, Co-founder of Next Pictures Pressphoto Agency, (NPPA Images) said, “Photojournalists are going well, but their type of work is very [very] risky. They are completely exposed to the pandemic and had to resort in purchasing out of their own pockets the personal protective equipment (PPEs) for their individual use.” However, he added, “A large part of the photography industry is not doing well at the moment. Photographers for events, weddings, corporate, and others, everything came to a complete stop, with no warning. They had no time to save some funds.”
Photographers shifting focus. Many photographers can’t work at all and have watched as their income depleted. Many have had to give up and sell their equipment. However, some have shifted to a different source of income.
Clark Vinoya is a freelance photographer who runs Clark Vinoya Photography. To support his growing family, he shifted his work online. He now creates content for his YouTube channel about photography and his personal life and conducts webinars. He said, “It is a challenging time, keeping my sanity intact through these activities. At least it helps me to build a sense of purpose and another way of expressing myself, especially during this time of the pandemic.”
Another example is photojournalist Jimmy Domingo. He sells bottled sardines, resells garlic longganisa (Filipino-Spanish sausage), and curated wild boar meat as his business. He continues to seek freelance work while he faces the COVID-19 pandemic, creating university lecture notes online and webinars because the government only allows teaching online. He said, “What is lost are photography services to organizations for their events, both local and international.”
Photographers helping other photographers. In this time of crisis, photographers help other photographers. Domingo helps other photographers by offering to resell their products.
Veteran photographers Richel Mascariñas and Edwin Tuyay also help fellow photographers on a bigger scale. Their idea to make an app similar to Uber or Grab. As a result, the PonD (Photographers on Demand) app exists. It was supposed to launch in March 2020, but because of the quarantine lockdown, it did not happen. Mascariñas and Tuyay launched PonD for news coverage online with the help of photographers like Mel Cortez, Jimmy Domingo, and Voltaire Fernandez Domingo. As a result, news outlets can get visual news coverage in quarantined areas through the app. For instance, photographers in an area that is in quarantined can cover the news and submit it to the app. From the app, news outlets can get copies of the photographs for news coverage.
Because of these innovations and the support within the photographer community, photographers need not abandon their art and their work.