Local photographers had quite the whirlwind week.
They started out believing they’d be allowed to reopen for business at a level approaching normal on Feb. 12.
The current rules, however, contradict what provincial officials initially said.
As it stands, the province only allows for outdoor photography of up to five people (plus household members if on private property), with only one person at a time allowed in the studio. Weddings and funerals of up to 10 people can also be photographed.
"It doesn’t make any sense," said local photographer Mandy Wark — a common refrain from those contacted for this story.
The mixed messages from the province, which has shared one thing in media releases and another in order papers, have many people confused.
"It was a lot of back-and-forth frustration bumping heads with clients," Wark said.
A media release sent out Feb. 9 announcing the Feb. 12 loosening of level red restrictions indicated, among other things, the province would be "allowing photographers and videographers to offer services to individual clients or those residing in the same household."
It would have been great if what they initially said proved true, Wark said, noting the one-on-one in-studio limit severely limits the industry, particularly during a winter in which it’s too cold to photograph most people.
Further, she said the favouring of some industry over others is frustrating. The household groups she is prohibited from photographing together are currently allowed to dine around the tables of local restaurants.
Studio 78 Lofts owner Jaime Willey has been following the regulations very closely — partly because she was almost fined by the province in May.
At the time, she says she was told she would be allowed to open her downtown Brandon studio to clients, only to be informed by a health inspector that if she did so she’d be shut down and fined.
Rather than follow what the media release said this time around, she reached out to a health inspector directly, whose message she said muddied the waters by contracting both the media release and the current written order.
"They promised one thing at the live press release, and then we always have to wait until the order comes out because it’s typically different from what was announced," Willey said.
"This is the one time photographers have banded together and said, ‘What is going on?’" Amber White of Champion Digital Photography said.
"Photographers have been really pushed aside in this the entire time."
Limited financial support from the government during restrictions has stung, she said, particularly after sinking thousands of dollars into preparations for Santa Claus photos last year only to have level red restrictions come into effect and shut her down.
Specializing in sports photography, she said the recent shutdown of various sports has also left a financial black hole in her operations.
For now, the photographers contacted for this story were consistent in advocating for greater fairness in the province’s health restrictions.
"I want to know why they seem to be picking on our industry," Wark said. "It doesn’t make any sense."
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB