Australia's creative industries have been hit hard by COVID-19. Here's how 3 photographers are adapting.

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As Australia battles through the coronavirus pandemic, stats released last month show some industries are being hit much harder than others.

Citing the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), The Guardian reported that only 47% of arts and recreation businesses remain trading since preventative measures were put into place to curve COVID-19, compared to 76% in retail, 85% in mining, and 88% in other services.

Given arts and recreation is a broad umbrella term for the creative field, it’s unwise to suggest everyone in the industry have been effected on the same scale. Indigenous artists in the NT, for example, have been impacted severely due to the closures of art galleries, which have cost the community millions of dollars.

There has also been some controversy over the way the Australian Government has been supporting the arts community, with a recent campaign, “Create Australia’s Future”, spearheaded by the National Association for Visual Arts (NAVA) imploring the Government to include sector-specific support measures to aid the “uneven nature of arts work”.

Alec Bruce-Mason, a cinematographer and photographer who says events were a “major part” of his workload pre-pandemic, says his shooting schedule was brought down to once a week “if he was lucky”.

But he believes that there’s a silver lining for those who are entitled to the JobSeeker allowance: “The best way to look at it is the government is paying you to upskill yourself.”

Bruce-Mason has been using his time that is usually consumed by shooting, editing and attending events to launch a brand that “helps small businesses get their products online”, as well as familiarising himself with different aspects of his field.

“I started to lean more into motion graphics, 3D design and animation as it’s something that I can do on my own and when the world gets back to normal it’s something that will fit in well with my usual work.

“It takes a serious passion to keep working on yourself and your art whilst not getting paid to do so, so I think [artists] will have a much higher skill ceiling coming out of this.”

Unsurprisingly, the dramatic shift in routine has brought out the creative side of professional creatives, with nature photographers staging faux outdoor snaps in their own homes, while photographers like Rhys Tattersall have reverted back to old-school methods when his work came to a screeching halt “for a week or two”.

“I’ve not been picking up the digital camera as much as I usually would and instead I’ve been taking out the old film one that I learnt on,” Tattersall explains. “This has been so refreshing for me, film has a certain way of bringing out a more genuine photo, rather than one anyone can take on their smartphone now.”

Both Tattersall and Bruce-Mason appear to be in agreement with what this shift means for ‘inauthentic’ photography (read: social media influencers), with Tattersall explaining: “The funny side of it is seeing the non-genuine side of photography start to struggle with no brand deals or travel deals to advertise and make it seem like you’re living a fantasy life.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the market reacts…hopefully, people will buy your work for the quality and time, not for your name or the number of followers that you have.”

Travel photographer Jona Grey was immediately reduced from full-time to contract work, losing the security of salary and suddenly relying on being paid job-by-job. But he’s used this lull in work to focus on other creative endeavours and offers a different perspective on social media and the travel industry.

“My friends in the travel industry have been hit hard and I feel it too,” Grey says. “Campaigns and photo/video work have slowed down…[but] travel creatives have to keep afloat as best as we can because once travel restrictions are slowly lifted, you bet there’ll be a boom eventually.

“Hotels, attractions and brands that have had slow business during COVID-19 will require marketing content and that’s where we come in,” he continues.

“It’s just a shame that there’s a lot of businesses reducing marketing ad spend when social media screen time is at an all-time high during COVID-19.”

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