Within weeks (some would say days) of everything shutting down in the U.S. because of COVID-19, people across every industry started to wonder the same thing: How can we get back to work safely? According to Steve Boxall, the onus is on the photographer to show potential clients how to proceed.
It is clear to me post-shutdown that photographers would become responsible for people’s wellness on a totally new level. Providing all the necessary means to help crew, talent, and client stay healthy and safe while on set is the new norm, at least until we can move past the pandemic stage.
We as photographers need to convince a lot of people beyond our point-of-contact on the client end that shooting in the COVID world is feasible to do. I think my video really helps put the picture of what a solution looks like in minds of clients.
With that in mind, Steve worked on a personal project and created an emailer to send to some clients. The email not only had new work, it more importantly included a plan for doing an actual assignment with crew and talent.
I had sent out an email to my mailing list showing off a personal project I shot while in self-isolation, about two months into the shutdown. In that email, I mentioned that I had been preparing for shoots in the new COVID world and that I was ready to go with personal protective equipment whenever clients were ready to come back. I had been buying PPE and I felt confident that, with proper care and attention, small shoots could be done safely. That emailer led to the Bucknell job coming my way.
Bucknell, for whom Steve has worked before, needed him to get shots of former basketball player Chris MacNaughton for the school magazine. Like Steve, Chris lives in Florida, and because this shoot was done in the latter’s home, it made for an easier time than, say, working in a studio. Once hired, Steve rounded up a very small team and had them sign a health contract, so to speak. Though detailed, it isn’t perfect, as Steve makes sure point out.
The crew consisted of myself, my assistant, and a hair and makeup artist. I had everyone who was going to be on set agree in writing that:
• I have been symptom free for the last three weeks – No Fever – No Chronic Cough – No Severe Fatigue – No Shortness of Breath
• I have not traveled outside of Florida in the past three weeks
• I have been practicing Social Distancing for at least three weeks
• I have not come into contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID 19 or some into contact with anyone displaying symptoms
• All team members will be required to wash hands and are encouraged to wash or sanitize hands frequently
I also agreed to provide the following for all: fresh face masks, hand sanitizer, shoe coverings, disinfecting wipes, alcohol wipes, alcohol spray, and disposable gloves. The sanitization kit was a logical solution. However, I’m not sure that it solves every problem. Going forward, there will likely need to be enhancements made, especially when shooting with larger crews.
A small crew under these circumstances means everyone has to put in more work in two ways. Not only does each individual have more responsibilities with regards to the shoot itself, all people involved have to be alert and precautionary.
Maintaining vigilance, wearing the mask, and washing hands are constants that we have to get used to. It’s feels really great to be back on set and it would be easy to just slide back into how we worked before all of this went down. However, until there’s a vaccine or some kind of solution to the virus, we have to make do with quite a few inconveniences and getting used to that new way of working will take effort.
With everyone on the same page, the work began. Steve started to get imagery of Chris while the client looked on remotely. It was during this time that Steve’s assistant, Adrian Ruiz, really earned his check.
Once we were set up, I used GoToMeeting to allow the editor and art director to see the shoot in real time, they were also able to edit in real time as we shot.
In the virtual meeting, I had the laptop sharing the screen for editing and image review and a phone that was roving for showing what was happening on set. This is a lot to manage — a dedicated Digital Tech to handle all the file capture, back up, GoToMeeting, and FaceTime activity is essential.
The assignment was a rousing success, not least of all because a video showing how to safely do a commissioned shoot (shot by Adrian) came out of it. That video has helped Steve reconnect with even more previous clients and seemed to put them at ease a bit. With a sanitation kit like the one Steve’s got, that makes sense.
Since the video went out, I have reconnected with a number of previous clients about new and past projects. All of them spoke very favorably about the video, and I got the impression that they were more at ease with the thought of commissioning a production after seeing how shoots can be done safely despite the new working conditions.
See more of Steve’s work on his website.
Videographer/Assistant: Adrian Ruiz
H&M: Toniko, Antonym Cosmetics
Editor: Sherri Kimmel
Art Director: Lauren Sanders
Read more about Steve on our Published blog.
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