In practice

COVID-19 : Photographing in an epidemic context

Taking photographs in an epidemic context is possible provided that precautions are taken. Here are some feedback.

Disclaimer: Strict compliance with public and state regulations is the prerequisite for all activities, including photography. This is particularly the case for containment measures which must be strictly observed.

For the past ten years I have been working in harsh and in particular epidemic contexts. For several months I did my work in Guinea Conakry during the Ebola epidemic, in particular in the Ebola treatment centers (ETC) of Macenta and Forécariah. I regularly intervene, in France and abroad, with emergency services in hospitals and intervention vehicles. And so far, I have not fallen ill (or even died); Why ? Because I am careful and reasonable.

If you have not read the disclaimer at the beginning of this article I invite you to do so. If you have read it, read it again. So we agree, this article does not replace public health measures.

Protect yourself

To take photos you need a camera, but above all a photographer. So you have to protect yourself. For that nothing better than the strict application of public health measures; don’t invent, apply, apply, apply.

For the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic:

  • Wash your hands;
  • Don’t touch anything or anyone;
  • Respect the public health advice and the procedures of the place where you intervene.

Do not forget it; although a photographer, you are human and therefore fragile. If you think you are safe from contagion, you are wrong.

Un soignant montre à une patiente que la fièvre est tombée, un pas vers la guérison.
Macenta | Guinée | 2014

To succeed in your photos, you will have to think about yourself first, and then your photos. Staying in good health is more important in an epidemic context than being successful in reporting. So we need to know at your fingertips what you have come to photograph so that we can focus on your own safety.

Protect your equipment

Your equipment is not in danger in an epidemic context, it does not risk falling ill. (If you see your camera sneezing, call a psychiatrist fairly quickly).

The risk is that your camera will be soiled and that by handling it you will become infected. Cleaning your equipment is not the key point. The most important thing is not to contaminate your equipment; therefore :

  • Do not lend it to anyone;
  • Do not put it anywhere;
  • Work light.

Your best friend is therefore a comfortable strap to keep your device around the neck or over the shoulder. Keep your equipment in a clean place and take only the minimum for shooting. When I report in an ambulance in COVID-19 context I only have one camera and one lens, no flash, no monopod, no second lens.

After your report is finished: wash your hands. If possible, wipe a damp, soapy cloth over your equipment. Put your device in your bag and wash your hands. Then it’s time that will finish the disinfection of your equipment. Do not touch for 48 to 72 hours, you can consider it clean.

Gloves, masks and glasses

Gloves, masks and goggles are not a substitute for basic hand washing. If you can take off gloves, a mask and goggles, I haven’t taught you anything in these few lines. If you don’t know that you have to know how to take off gloves, a mask or glasses, ask the people who welcome you for your report what are the undressing dressing instructions and if you know, ask anyway explain again!

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Nicolas Beaumont is a photojournalist, director and writer specializing in social and humanitarian photography. Among our clients are the French Red Cross, Emmaüs, Handicap International, Secours Mag, Dimatex, Actusoins. We make films, photographs and articles around the world on current topics: migration, war, displaced, natural disaster, flood etc...

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