Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Almost a year of no events - the challenges, the pivots, the uncertainty of this pandemic

Here we are at the beginning of a new year and we are still surrounded by an abundance of uncertainty and an unknown future. It is hard to believe that most of this started back in March of last year, with none of us knowing what we were headed for. As I look back to the beginning of this pandemic, a couple of moments really stand out from the rest:

* I was driving to a Temple to photograph a Bar Mitzvah when I received a phone call from a photographer friend who also shoots a lot of events here in the Bay area. He told me he was getting multiple cancellations from his clients. I had yet to have any, and thought that maybe he was over reacting. 

* I remember hearing that we might have to shelter in place for 2-3 weeks and thinking "Two or three weeks! That is a REALLY long time!"

And here we are almost a year later and still dealing with all of this. 

For those people who work in the event business, it has been brutal. I think of the venues, caterers, florists, DJs, coordinators, photographers, videographers, rental companies and so many others who have basically lost all their business for a really long time. For most people, the biggest impact is financial. But there are so many other losses, including the lack of creating art for others, the lack of socialization, and the boredom of staying at home. I feel all of these on a daily basis. As you may know, I am one of those people who likes to be busy all the time; working, traveling and socializing. To say that this has been a tough year is an understatement. But at least, as a photographer I have something to shoot right now. Many of the others vendors have no business at all. And it gave us a chance to follow up with past clients to encourage them to select their favorite images and get their albums designed and printed.

But along with all of those challenges, I have seen some bright spots too. I have seen some of my industry friends pivot their businesses to achieve revenue in really creative ways. A couple of my friends who own DJ businesses are now providing high-end Zoom conferencing production capabilities. I have seen coordinators who used to organize large parties who are now helping their clients put together virtual events and even deliver gift boxes to attendees.

It is not just the people in the industry who have adjusted to the pandemic, but the clients as well. When Covid19 was shutting down everything, nobody knew what to do. My calendar showed almost every weekend booked with some type of event, and that just stopped completely. It took a little while for people to adapt to the "new normal", but the adaptation has been really interesting. There are still no parties, but at least people have gotten creative with the situation we are in.

The first event that actually happened was a Bar Mitzvah on April 18th, and the family told me they were doing the service in their home via Zoom. It was a last minute decision and they scrambled to make it happen.

At the time, I thought that this was a totally unique solution to use this new service called Zoom, but not likely to become the norm. And with so much unknown about Covid, I was not going into their house. I did offer to go to their house (at no charge) and take portraits of them in their front yard. I felt that this event should be captured for the family, regardless of the circumstances.

They were joking about the month long shelter in place, and how they were ready to strangle each other. And that was back in April of 2020!

In June I photographed another Bar Mitzvah at the family home, and this time the Temple loaned the family the Torah. It was great to have that for the photos.

This was the first time that I had entered a home and captured photos of the mitzvah service (with my mask on and staying at least 6 feet from them).

In early August, I photographed another Bar Mitzvah, and by this point the Zoom Mitzvah was becoming more routine. The big difference is that the families had become more Zoom proficient and more cognizant of the lighting, foregrounds and backgrounds.

And this was the first time I had ever photographed a Bar Mitzvah with a dog at the service!

Towards the end of August I photographed a beautiful Bat Mitzvah in this family's backyard. The decor was amazing and the video production was now really polished. They had different camera angles, top notch microphones, and even someone designated for the video production. 

This was also the first mitzvah where I exclusively used the Canon R5 and R6 mirrorless cameras (making overhead shots like this a breeze).

Before the month ended, I photographed a wedding at this family's home.

The entire wedding was performed on their front porch, and it was awesome. Lots of great moments and lots of laughs too. 

And just like all the other events, one of the main guests was the computer and Zoom camera. 

In early September, I was back inside a client's home to photograph another Bat Mitzvah. 

And they had their new puppy joining us as well.

Yes, this was the moment where their puppy did #1 and #2 on the carpet during the service. You don't see THAT every day! Hysterical.

In late September, I photographed this young lady's Bat Mitzvah at the local JCC. Her mitzvah was supposed to be in March, and was my first postponement. They did a beautiful job of decorating a hallway, and only the family and myself was in that space for the service.

The service was then broadcast outside the building to families (who each had their own table distanced from the others).

In early October I photographed a Bar Mitzvah inside a temple for the first time in almost 8 months and it felt so good! 

Once again, it was just the family and myself (and the video guys) inside, with everything being sent out via Zoom. 

A week later I was in a different temple and feeling like maybe we were headed back to more normal days.

Still all Zoom but at least I could get more traditional photos.

There was even a lunchtime party at the family's home.

In November it was pretty much the same, shooting with limited people at the temple. By this time, custom face masks were almost a given..

The key photographic moments are a little different for a Zoom mitzvah, like this moment at the end of the service when everyone is on Zoom congratulating the family. 

And just when I thought we were heading into more normal times, the next wave of Covid hit California and all the churches and temples were shut down again.

So...I was back to the client's home to photograph the next service.

One of the local temples acquired a mini torah for them to loan out to their mitzvah families. 

In December I photographed a Bar Mitzvah inside a tent, with a limited number of people in attendance. 

More custom face masks....the sign of the times.

This family decided to host a drive in movie party for their closest friends and family. They played interactive games and even had dinner delivered to each car.

And they played the young man's favorite movie.

This last weekend, I photographed yet another Bar Mitzvah at the family's home.

Since so many of their relatives could not be there for the big day, they decided to make these awesome photos representing family who could not attend. 

They hosted a drive-by ice cream stand for friends and family in the area.

This was yet another clever way of celebrating a young man's big day in a unique way. 

As I mentioned earlier...these are tough times, but it is nice to see so many people adapting to the current situation and coming up with their own original celebrations. For me as a photographer, this time has given me a chance to photograph these events in unique environments. 

With that said, I can't wait to get back to the days of traditional parties, but only time will tell when that might be. 

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