Open Letter to Governor Holcomb – Re: Clarification and Guidance for Professional Photographers

Dear Governor Holcomb,

Thank you for your guidance and quick reaction during this SARS-COV-2 pandemic. My wife and I are small business owners in Lafayette, IN. We have owned our photography business for 10 years and opened a women’s clothing boutique in the fall of 2018. We are a family of three and our businesses are our sole source of income. We realize, appreciate, and understand the sacrifice we are all having to make during this incredible health crisis even though we are deeply impacted by it, as are thousands of other Hoosiers, Americans, and guests.

I’m writing your office, for the first time, because I am extremely concerned with the lack of clarity, guidance, and consistent communication coming from the various offices in the Indiana State Government. Per executive order EO 20-18, all non-essential businesses are to be closed. I have personally called your office twice with questions and to receive guidance. I was told by your office that under no circumstance are we to photograph anyone, anywhere, for any reason as a professional photographer working our business. Not only is EO-20-18 very clear (at least to me) about this, but your office was very clear as well. Under that guidance I have assisted other photographers in communicating the urgent need to stop photographing clients and to stay home. I have also encouraged other photographers to report those who are in violation of the EO. The responses from IEDC are extremely different from that coming from your office.

From IEDC Covid Response:

“We have confirmed that photography is a permitted outdoor activity, provided the photos occur outside and that social distancing requirements (6 feet) are adhered to (i.e. porch photos).”

In addition:

“I am working to see if this can be added to the information online. In the meantime, can you tell me who you are speaking with at the governor’s office? This direction I provided came directly from them so I want to make sure I can clear up any miscommunications that may be occurring.”

The dates of these messages are as of today, April 7th, 2020.

I have personally encouraged photographers to stay home for a number of reasons. 1) It would be a violation of EO 20-18 and therefore against the law. 2) The health and safety of the photographer and client could be impacted as recent studies show that SARS-COV-2 can be transmitted via air up to 24 feet. Far beyond the recommended six feet recommended by the CDC. 3) Travel and accidents that occur during the drive to and from clients’ homes could impact the ability for emergency responders to respond to COVID-19 patients and instead direct resources to aid people who should not have been out to begin with and who should be staying at home.

The inconsistency in the messaging from your office has created much debate amongst photographers as to what is or isn’t allowed. In addition, the newly stated ability for photographers to be able to work despite the fact we are non-essential and ordered to stay at home now creates implications for 2 and 3 I listed above. This inconsistency and mixed message also flies in the face of the order itself.

While I am appreciative of our ability to be able to photograph our clients provided we practice recommended social distancing, I’m also a bit disheartened to hear that the health of the public and the potential impact on emergency responders and hospitals has been overlooked. Not only this, but if other non-essential businesses see photographers working and following safe practices, it encourages others to find ways to not follow the stay at home order.

If allowing professional portrait photography, operating as a business (whether it’s paid, unpaid, or for a donation to a cause), is acceptable we certainly welcome that clarification as quoted above from IEDC. If this is just an oversight due to lack of communication within the COVID response team, it would be great if there was additional guidance provided and a consistent and clear message as to what is and isn’t allowed.

Thank you for your time.

Christopher N. Deckard – West Lafayette, IN