A week into the war, many are beginning to ask questions about the long-term impacts of the war. As a Ukrainian-born writer with family and friends in Ukraine, I follow news surrounding the war very closely. A war on such a large scale will have a profound impact on most industries, including photography. Here is my analysis of the echo of this war in photography.
Before going any further, I would like to recognize that there is a lot more important going on in the world than photography. The Russian invasion of Ukraine will have far-reaching consequences for tens of millions of people, and not just photography. Yet, since Fstoppers is a photography publication and I am a writer covering photography, I will only focus on how this large-scale war is affecting the photography industry.
Import, export and sale of equipment
Buying cameras or other photo equipment will likely become more difficult as companies reduce exports of their products to Russia. As companies such as DHL have reduced shipments to Russia, it will be more difficult to secure new stock for Russian camera stores. Moreover, the more the Russian ruble loses its value, the less people will buy new equipment. Camera sales will take a dramatic hit in countries directly affected by war. Plus, as more companies announce sanctions against Russia, it wouldn’t be surprising if photography brands stopped shipping to Russia as the world moved away. In addition, companies producing equipment in Ukraine will face difficulties in managing their activities due to the ongoing war. It would not be uncommon to find factories making equipment and offices looted or destroyed.
Creative jobs in the region
As a hotspot for many advertising campaigns, as well as a major market for luxury goods, Russia is a known destination for many people who want to work in the creative industry. Unfortunately, the ongoing war has made most creative jobs non-existent, and many creatives, like Amer Mohamed, are leaving the country for good. Additionally, the commercial photography industry will be hit hard by the withdrawal of international brands from Russia in the middle of the war. It should also be noted that the creative industry in Ukraine and Russia as a whole will see a steady decline as the war continues.
Ukraine has an extremely strong and powerful production activity. There have been countless Hollywood movie productions and music videos filmed in Ukraine and Kyiv. The reason Ukraine is such a popular destination for productions is due to an incredible network of locations and production crews. Labor, as well as other costs, are much lower in countries like Ukraine or Russia. Naturally, due to the ongoing war, it will not be possible to facilitate film or photo shoots, which will lead to logistical challenges as well as increased costs. In addition, production in Russia will also be difficult due to the current ban on travel to EU and US airspace.
Programmers and software developers
Russia and Ukraine are very well known for their IT strength. Some of the most popular jobs in Ukraine among young university graduates are in the IT sector. This means that many companies in the photography and videography industry rely on software developers from both countries for their work. A temporary shortage of software developers can only slow down the speed with which updates are released and new products are developed. Companies such as Luminar have already issued statements of support for Ukraine as well as statements of support for their teams in Ukraine.
Deaths of photographers
There are civilian casualties in every conflict. Yet with the Russian-Ukrainian war, unarmed civilians are the intended targets of an army. There will certainly be plenty of creative people who will give their lives to war, whether fighting or photographing. Although according to international conventions members of the press, such as photographers, are not allowed to be targeted, there have already been photographers who have died as a result of this war.
As far as I know, most good retouchers come from Russia, Ukraine or Belarus. The quality of work produced by these people is second to none and the world’s top photographers such as Lindsay Adler are known to use retouchers from Ukraine and Russia. My editing team is made up of Russians and Ukrainians. Ukrainian retouchers are fighting for their lives, while some Russian retouchers will not be able to accept payments as easily as before due to the disconnection of Russian banks from SWIFT. Also, a lot of jobs had to be put on hold because of it. There will be major delays and issues for a lot of fashion and beauty photographers like me who work with people from Russia/Ukraine/Belarus.
It is currently prohibited to fly drones unless authorized by the Ukrainian authorities. Also, taking pictures can be considered espionage. As there is a repression of the media in Russia in general, amateur photography can sometimes be viewed in all the wrong ways by an increasingly paranoid regime. It is fair to say that the ongoing war will have a negative effect on photography clubs and photographers in these countries in general.
The traditionally left-leaning creative industry in Russia is likely to face government repression as more photographers, filmmakers and artists voice their support for Ukraine. Being illegal in Russia, some photographers may end up behind bars, serving a prison sentence.
Although I am not an economist, it is assumed that this war will lead to higher prices and therefore lower budgets for photo shoots. What COVID-19 has shown is that jobs aren’t going away, but they’re getting smaller and budgets are getting tighter. Although the war in Ukraine is not likely to cause a global recession, it will contribute to the damage already caused by COVID.
The Russian arm is renamed to U-Crane
To end on a more or less positive note, I want to share that cinema rental companies are on Ukraine’s side! Developed and built in Kyiv, Ukraine, this robotic arm is used for filming action and chase scenes. The company that invented this device: Filmotechnic, has officially renamed its product U-Crane.
These are just a few other consequences of the war in Ukraine, which are directly related to the photography and creative industry. While it may seem like the war in Ukraine won’t affect anyone across the pond, the truth is that it will, albeit slightly.
What are some of the effects of the Russian war in Ukraine that you see? I’d love to hear your thoughts!