Dear Photographer,

I am ashamed of you. And I’m angry. Let me tell you why.

My name is Yvonne van Dalen and I’m a newborn and family photographer from the Netherlands. I have currently closed my studio due to the measures around the Corona Virus. Things have been a bit surrealistic here, as it has been absolutely quiet for the first time in my career. Shoots have been postponed, meetings are held online and every inquiry has been put on a waiting list. This feels like something out of a movie. But it’s reality.

As I’ve shut down, me and my boyfriend also have been homeschooling the kids this week, and I’ve been reading the development in the media. It is a true pandemic. And to say it scares me senseless is an understatement. I will not use any bad language in this message, but I would like to, because something has come to my attention and that’s why I’m addressing you now.

Let me tell you why I am ashamed and so angry. Today I saw a message in an online group I’m a member of. This message was posted in a group for female photographers by a photographer who started a “cool” project to photograph people in front of their homes. To have a memory of this Corona period. As I read this I got absolutely furious.

The Corona virus has infected people all over the world, and The Netherland is one of the hotspots of contamination. The virus spreads like wildfire and the situation is comparable to that of Italy where thousands of people are infected, and hundreds have died already. The Dutch government, to my amazement, has not put up strict regulations to contain it. We are allowed to social distance ourselves, meaning we can stay within 1,5 meters from each other. Gatherings of 100 people are still allowed. And even more annoying is that people are visiting beaches, forests, and popular places as if they were on holiday. Their irresponsibility really blows my mind!

Now back to my job as a newborn and family photographer. With my cameras I capture LIFE. I record moments of love, wonder and connection. Things that all make us human. Things that matter to us most. I create long-lasting memories for my models. And now that my studio has closed, I can’t do that and it really pains me. Because photography makes my heart sing. Seeing people’s reactions to their images, and making time stand still so they can cherish their memories, is why I became a photographer. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE what I’m allowed to do for my clients. My images celebrate life.

I can imagine it must be something along the line for my colleagues. Because our job is an awesome job! And I’m happy to see that a lot of my fellow photographers have closed shop and put down their cameras. But to those who still haven’t I can only say that I don’t understand why you haven’t. At this moment in time, we must have patience. And I see around me that a lot of photographers don’t have patience. I see them complain about losing money, clients, feeling the competition, fearing if they can keep their business open, panicking, unable to deal with the uncertainty. So they come up with projects, or even worse, keep doing paid jobs, stating that they are working “within safety regulations”.

But I am here to say that these photographers should be ashamed of themselves. Ashamed of putting their business and their ego before the wellbeing of their models and all humans on the planet. We are capturers of life, and we don’t want to be the ambassadors of death. We should focus on our lives, focus our communities. But we should NOT focus on our business! Things will pick up after this virus has been combatted, trust me. But we don’t want to capture a memory that is linked to this pandemic that has killed and will kill thousands. We want our work to be a registration of our respect and love for each other and of life, not an attribute of your desperation.

If you can’t put your camera down, you are disrespecting EVERYTHING that has to do with the art and science that is photography. And I am very angry at you. You should be ashamed of yourself as this is not how a photographer behaves.

I beg you to be patient. I beg you to put down your camera. I beg you to act in the interest of those you love and those around you. We are all connected. And together we must rise. You don’t want to be a part of the spreading of this awful illness. You don’t want to have your conscience burdened by the thought that you have contributed to the spreading of this virus. You are stealing cherished family members, grandparents, parents and sibling from your models.

We photographers are not important now. We must put down our cameras as a united front and make sure we are healthy and strong. We must take care of our families, of other families. So that when this hell of a pandemic is over, we can rise and be fully focusing on all new and festive and beautiful memories that life will bring us. Because mankind will throw one hell of a party, trust me!

For now, we must rest and turn inwards and reflect. So make sure your memory cards are empty, your batteries are charged, your lenses are polished and your cameras are ready to go. And when the time is ready, people will celebrate. And we will be there to celebrate with them. Because that is what us photographers do. And only then it is, with pride, that we shall capture the beautiful gift that is life.

Stay healthy, happy and safe. Namaste.

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