TIMOTHY Manyange meticulously cleans his camera lenses in his studio in Harare as he prepares for a photoshoot session.
Manyange, a humanitarian and family photographer, has been capturing people’s special moments for the past decade, but many of those moments have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For many ordinary Zimbabweans who form the bulk of Manyange’s clientele, spending their hard-earned cash on photography during times of economic uncertainty seems less of a priority.
While news reports have mostly focused on cancellation or postponement of social events due to the pandemic, what has been missing from coverage is the pandemic’s economic impact on event photographers such as Manyange who ekes out a living from documenting those events.
“The coming of the pandemic has made life very difficult for us, very very difficult,” Manyange told Xinhua in an interview at his studio. “Now it’s been six months, so you can imagine right now all the savings have totally gone, it’s totally gone.”
“With the measures that were put for us to contain the virus, we could not work, we could not visit people, we could not interact at any point, so that meant no family gatherings, no family photography for six months,” said Manyange.
“My kind of work, it gives me life, meeting new people, getting to know their stories, getting to tell their stories. That’s what gives me life, so it’s been six months of not having that,” he said.
However, Manyange said while the pandemic has had a negative impact on the industry, those who are forward thinking still see opportunities.
“But for people who are creative, I think this was an opportunity to grow,” he said.
“We used to survive on events, but now that we don’t have events, we then tried to go down the value chain. We can focus on printing,” he said.
With weddings postponed and other social events being cancelled, event photographers are reinventing themselves in order to keep working through the coronavirus pandemic. Manyange said he is using the opportunity to get into new genres of photography he was not used to at the same time trying to capitalize on opportunities along the photography value chain.
“Photography is life. So as long as people are living there is always an opportunity for us,” he said.
While the past six months of lockdown have taken an economic toll on event photographers such as Manyange, the slowdown of infections and the gradual opening of all sectors of the economy following a relaxation of lockdown offers photographers renewed hope for the future.
Zimbabwe has reopened most sectors of its economy following months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The government has given a green light to the resumption of domestic flights, and international flights will start on Oct. 1.