A great Australian commercial photographer told me the business of photography is more about problem-solving than it is about taking pictures. Adapting is key to surviving in an industry that's seemingly always on the verge of hitting some form of turbulent change.
Over the last two decades, photographers have overcome the emergence of digital technology, the internet and social media, shrinking newsrooms, an explosion of cheap photography from semi-pros, online microstock agencies, digital education, the 'death of print', a shrinking market for prints and rise of digital files, smartphones, and so on.
Each time these violent jolts of turbulence hits the industry, photographers either start problem-solving to adapt or hit the eject button. For this particular commercial photographer, having reached a fine vintage in his career, he, like many others, decided to hit eject when digital photography took. But many others carried on and prospered.
Over the course of various Australian Covid-19 lockdowns, Inside Imaging explored how the photo industry – from freelance photojournalists to schools photographers and over to specialist retailers and printing labs - were travelling.
There was plenty of wilful procrastination heading into those interviews. No one wants to effectively bother someone during what might be their final days.
But this couldn't have been further from the truth.
Instead, that sense of resilience was in full force. Covid-19 was just another problem to solve, another time to adapt. There was a drive to emerge stronger than before.
Of course, no one went unscathed. Plenty of photography-related organisations hit eject. It was their time. For others, it will be another great problem for them to solve. Or maybe even their first problem. But when compounding all the challenges this industry has overcome in less than two decades, it's full of hardy people who are poised to withstand whatever comes next.
About the author
Editor and journalist Will Shipton writes and curates Inside Imaging, an online trade publication and weekly e-newsletter for the Australian photo industry, including professionals and engaged enthusiasts, distributors, manufacturers and retailers. Read more at insideimaging.com.au