About this Blog

Photo Writing is the web version of the Photo Writing mini-magazine produced by Limephoto and Emil von Maltitz since 2010. As of 2015 it is now completely online. Feel free to browse through the articles and please leave comments in the comments section if you would like to engage with us.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Brave New World

So much has changed in the last few months. People keep asking each other, is this the new normal? Not to rehash the millions of words that have already been written regarding the state that the world find’s itself in, but this too shall pass. Back in 1918 it must have felt like the world was truly coming to an end. As horrific as the coronavirus is, it pales into insignificance next to the truly terrifying disease that was the Spanish flu. Still, Covid-19 is here and it is upended the way we work, and the way we live. At least for the time being at any rate. 

As a photographer I have been personally and profoundly affected by the lockdown that our government imposed - similar to that done by governments around the world. I, and other photographers are not unique. The lockdowns in their various guises and intensities have wreaked economic havoc among the lives of just about every professional service provider in the world. A small amount of consolation or solace kept reminding me; I am not alone in this. If you are a waitor, a chef, a singer, street performer, events organiser, wedding planner, child day carer, hairdresser, make-up artist, dancer, car salesperson, home realtor, house painter, tiler, construction worker, or anything to do with tourism and the travel industry….your career and income came to a grinding halt in a matter of days. These are just a small smattering of the jobs that literally dried up as the world locked down.

It’s understandable why people felt, and still feel, despair at the situation. But there is a light at the end the tunnel (and it isn’t a freight train barrelling towards you). Being a photographer, I obviously speak a lot with other photographers. The fact that you are reading this means there is a more than good chance that you are also a photographer. I have been absolutely blown away by the resilience and the upbeat anticipation of the future by my colleagues.

There are those who took advantage of the entire situation and were able to create incredible imagery and footage of the lockdowns in their various hometowns and countries (for the South African readers, if you haven’t had a chance to see Timothy Hayes and Simon Mulholland’s epic 6K drone production of the lockdown in KwaZulu-Natal, do yourself a favour and watch it). Some of us spent more time with our families that ordinarily we wouldn’t have (although this was no doubt frustrating at times, this is actually something we’ll one day look back on and treasure). For other photographers it was a chance to clean hard drives and tackle projects that have been on the back-burner for years (I finally got stuck in on my personal website after sitting on the domain name www.emilvonmaltitz.com for over 8 years). 

One of the few jobs I found myself shooting during the lockdown was a probono project for an NGO startup (FoodFlow) assisting small-grower farmers and households in need due to loss of income as a result of 'lockdown'

Then there are the thoughts for the future. Again, listening to my friends and colleagues, they all seem extremely upbeat about the future and their place in it as photographers. As one friend put it, it’s going to separate those who are truly passionate about being photographers from those who have treated it as a sideline hustle. Although the initial impression is that there isn’t enough work for the number of people who consider themselves ‘professional’ photographers, the reality is that there is more than enough work available for the those who can do it (properly). At the same time photography as a hobby, a pursuit of passion is far from dimming as a result of the virus and the lockdowns. If anything it seems to only have gotten stronger, but with the economic ‘side-hustle’ component dwindling. That’s good news for people who earn their entire living from it, but also good news for photographers who pursue photography as art.

Despite the fact that we seem to be drowning in visual content, the world needs more images! The lockdowns drove us into our homes and increased the importance of the visual. Images are needed for just about everything we do online…and online is where we increasingly exist. Despite magazines going out of circulation due to the economic calamity, other requirements for imagery have emerged. The very fact that we are forced into a digital transition means that there will be more businesses, more people, more services that need photography and visual content.

Added to this need is something that I am noticing more and more with my clients, and something Jackie, my wife, pointed out to me. The more images there are, the higher the bar to pass muster. Older photographers might fear the younger upstarts stealing their slice of the diminishing pie (or so it’s perceived…I actually think it’s growing as a result of the lockdown), but the photographer with experience and skill actually has a massive quality advantage over those starting out. It makes it that much harder to break into photography as a profession. Here again is that idea that those who are passionate and serious will naturally separate from the side-hustlers.

Six weeks ago I couldn’t sleep for fear of how we would pay the mortgage. Now I can’t sleep because I’m momentarily overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to get done (and I am so thankful for that). I hear similar things from a number of my photographer friends (well, those who don’t usually shoot weddings that is).


After three months of essentially being confined to our homes, it was amazing being able to go and shoot a dawn again from the lofty perch of Monteseel in the early hours of the morning.

In some ways the lockdown is to the photographic industry a little bit like the transition to digital was (or the move to colour photography was). Photography is a constantly evolving profession. Usually it’s the technology that leads the need to pivot or change the way we work. Photographers who have been adept at changing, and moving with the times have always been the most successful. This time, it isn’t the technology that has changed, but the social melee that we find ourselves in. The same will apply. The photographers who can adapt to change, will remain successful. Be brave and embrace the change.

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