Confusion and frustration growing among photographers regarding health orders

WINNIPEG — Frustration is mounting for those in Manitoba’s photography industry as there has been confusion regarding the new health orders in place.

When the newest round of restrictions kicked in on Feb. 12, one of the industries that was allowed to resume work was photography.

The province said photographers would be able to provide services to individual clients or those living in the same household as well as weddings, but they wouldn’t be allowed to attend a client’s home.

Jamie Willey, the owner of Studio 78 Lofts in Brandon and a photographer, said the confusion developed after she clarified the rules with a public health inspector on Thursday and they told her that only individuals, weddings and funerals, were allowed to get pictures taken.

“It’s really disconcerting because we are going by the rules, we’re trying to do the best we can and follow everything that they are putting in place,” Willey told CTV News on Thursday. “But when one arm is telling us to do something and then the other hand is telling something else, it is pretty disheartening.”

CTV News reached out to the province on Friday and a spokesperson clarified the rules.

They said photographers and videographers can offer services to individuals in either retail locations or registered home businesses, as well as weddings and funerals.

Photographers can also set up shooting sessions outside with households as long as its five people plus household members on outdoor private property, or five people total who are physically distanced on outdoor public property.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, the acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, said sometimes one word can make a difference.

“I think when we are creating orders, people are creating documents to interpret those orders as well, and obviously these are legal documents and sometimes one word can make a difference,” said Atwal.

He said the concern was brought forward by photographers and videographers and it has now been addressed and he feels it is clear now.

Willey said on Friday it still doesn’t make sense that she can attend a wedding and take pictures with 10 other people but she can’t have one household come to her studio.

She is also confused about the funeral aspect of the rule.

“I have never been to a funeral where they have hired a photographer to come and capture the event. So I’m not too sure why that was allowed in there,” she said. “I don’t even think they consulted anybody in the photography industry to understand what is really acceptable and what really should be done.”

Lauren Cox is also a photographer and she said this confusion and change is frustrating and heartbreaking.

“People who were wanting to get newborn photos, do they drop off their newborn and then pick it up when the photos are done?” said Cox on Thursday. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Both Willey and Cox said what makes the situation more frustrating is knowing families can go to a restaurant for dinner but they can’t stand in a studio while someone takes their picture.

Despite all the confusion, Willey said she isn’t surprised as she dealt with a similar situation back in May 2020, which almost resulted in her being fined.

She said that is why she ended up double-checking the rules.

“I was still taken aback, but honestly, I wasn’t really shocked. There has been so many instances within the last year that the government has said one thing online, but when it comes down to reality it was a completely different order,” she said.

Willey said she understands that none of us has been through a pandemic before and there is a learning curve to this, but she doesn’t understand the lack of communication.

“So why is the public health inspector or whoever is writing the public health order not communicating with the people who are putting that information out on public government websites?”

Cox said it’s frustrating that she has to find out the changes through others in the industry and not from the government first-hand.

“It’s bizarre because the press release came out and said one thing and now they have supposedly changed it but haven’t really told us in any way,” said Cox.

Cox and Willey said they are going to have to reschedule or cancel some shoots because of the inability to work in a studio.

The spokesperson said the province apologizes for the confusion and they have updated their online content.

– With files from CTV’s Jeff Keele.

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