Picture of frustration: Ottawa photographers say uneven pandemic rules have kept businesses shuttered

OTTAWA — It’s a snapshot of the uneven pandemic rules that have kept its businesses shuttered in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photographers, who take pictures of newborns and family portraits, say they can’t operate, and want the province to clarify when they will be allowed to reopen and under what restrictions.

Emily Brown operates Diamondview Photography in Ottawa. She’s in the business of keeping memories.

“We’re capturing special moments in people’s lives, fleeting moments; babies are only small for so long, the moments go by very quickly,” Brown tells CTV News Ottawa.

While she specializes in newborn portraiture, which she says primarily takes place indoors, she also captures other crucial moments like family portraits, outdoors.

“I’ve been lucky enough to shoot outdoors when the regulations allowed us to.”

Brown says that during the lockdown, those rules haven’t allowed her to operate outdoors either; and, Ontario’s reopening plan has left her and her clients out of the picture.

“I would like to see the province allow outdoor photography right now; and, including us in Step One (of the Roadmap to Reopen) for sure,” she says.

According to the province’s website, lockdown exemptions do allow “commercial and industrial photography,” but Brown says those are mainly corporate headshots or product photos.

She has to wait until Step 2 of Ontario’s reopening plan before she can operate.

“I feel like we’ve just been forgotten about,” said Brown.

But there is some good news for photographers in Ottawa looking to work outside in small groups.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Roger Chapman, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director said outdoor photography is permitted, with a maximum of five people gathered.

“On May 22, the provincial regulations were amended to allow people to gather outdoors in groups no larger than five people, and to open park amenities. Outdoor photography would be permitted under these guidelines, provided that the group does not exceed five people including the photographer, and that all public health guidelines are adhered to.”

Photographers would like to see this cleared up by the province.

“It’s the frustration that the government website doesn’t provide any guidance, it’s frustration that some health units are saying, ‘Yes it’s OK outside,’ and some are saying, ‘No,'” said Jennifer Gilbert, national director for Ontario of the Professional Photographers of Canada.

“Other health units are saying we don’t know what to do.”

Her organization wants to work with regulators in reopening.

“When you look at the reopening roadmap, it just says Step 1, closed. Step 2, open with restrictions. Step 3, open with restrictions, but there’s no guidance.   We want to be a part of making those regulations and providing that guidance,” said Gilbert.

All to capture the moments which may be missed.

“For people to have those images, it’s actually very special to them.”

CTV News Ottawa reached out to the Ontario government for clarification on the rules. We had not received a response by Friday afternoon.

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