Photography During the Pandemic Part 1
By Michael Ernest Sweet
The virus gripping our world has ushered in a lot of change in short order. It seems like almost nothing is the same, even though many things are more stable than they feel. That said, as street photographers, there can be little doubt that our ability to practice our passion has been impacted, at least for the short term. No wandering the streets and, certainly, no physical human interaction, to name but two restrictions that have dried up our photographic opportunities and dampened our inspiration. But before you throw in the towel and take up stamp collecting, let’s look at a few ways to remain engaged, and even energized, about our work throughout these challenging times. All is not lost, we just need to shift our perspective and rework out short-term photographic goals. There are many options to explore, here are five I recommend to get you started.
Organize Your Archives
I don’t know about you, but my digital files and analog negatives are always in a disorganized mess. Well, not always. The point is there is always more organizing, filing, editing, and deleting to be done. I could spend many days just working on this one aspect of my photography practice. Indeed, there are times when I have thought perhaps I should have been quarantined until this mess was cleaned up. So, here’s my chance, and maybe yours too. Get out those old flash drives, CDs, negative files, maybe even floppy drives, and get cracking. Just think how amazing it will feel to emerge on the other side of this pandemic with all your images in a row. And, although I know I have harped on this before, let me reiterate how important I think it is that you archive your most important images on analog film. Analog negatives are an incredibly stable medium and, perhaps more importantly, they are a physical thing. As such, their chances of being around, in some closet or drawer, for the next 100 years is quite high, at least compared to that thumb drive. If you want to transfer some digital images to analog negatives, there is a company in the USA, Gamma Tech, that does an excellent job. Tell Charlie I sent you!
Copyright ⓒ Michael E. Sweet
Submit to Publications & Contests
Now would also be a great time to seek out some ideal fits when it comes to publications and contests too. This can be a time-consuming task in the best of times, which is why we often don’t get it done. But here’s the thing, getting published or winning a contest is, to some degree, just a matter of math. You need to submit to have a chance to win, and you need to submit a lot, to actually win. That’s not to suggest that other factors are not also at play. For example, submitting to the wrong publications and contests can often be nothing more than a colossal waste of time. You need to know where your work “fits” and, at least with publications, it also doesn’t hurt to have a relationship with the publication. By this I mean you’ve read it, numerous issues, and understand the kind of work they pursue and how they present that work. Well-fitted and carefully crafted submissions outperform blind submissions by a country mile. Yes, it all takes time, which is why we recommend adding this to your list for your at-home projects during this pause from our normal routine. One great place to start is the Urban Photo Awards, yes, I am on the jury, but that could be a bonus, right? Wherever you decide to submit, give careful consideration to what you think the judges and editors are looking for and submit that work. As someone who has judged photo contests and edited for magazines for years, this is the one weak spot I see again and again – people just “throwing” photos at us. Be discriminate, be deliberate – it will pay dividends.