Wrong Time or Bad Photos? Why These Photo Books Are Failing

Are you looking for photographic documentation of what the world has become due to COVID-19?

I’ve previously written about the importance of street photography during these unprecedented times. Having visual documentation of how communities, governments, and countries have responded to the pandemic will serve us well in our search for understanding and education. How the content is delivered is varied. It could be through websites, newspapers, and even photo books, to name just a few examples. But timing is everything. Some photographers are already trying to sell photo books covering the topic, and it begs the question: is it too soon?

Covid – 19 Photo Books

I’ve identified three photographers that are using Kickstarter to launch their photo books. One photographer has documented New Orleans during the lockdown, another is focusing on New York City, and the last one I found is documenting Italy – one of the most impacted nations during this challenging time.

“Why would most people want to reinforce the image of our current times by purchasing a photo book that will only serve to remind them of the pain the world is experiencing right now?”

Personally, I love a Kickstarter campaign. Watching people set out a goal and trying to get the backing to achieve it is exciting. But again, it’s all about timing, and you need to understand if the demand is there for the product. Judging from the number of backers each campaign has received, it would suggest there’s little interest in what they’re offering. None of the photographers have managed to reach five percent of their overall goal.

Why They’re Not Hitting Target

Why they’re greatly underachieving could be due to several factors. Firstly – and respectfully – none of the photographers are household names. It isn’t easy to get people to part with their cash when they’re not overly familiar with your name and work. The second reason, and again I say this respectfully, is that people may not feel the quality of the content is good enough. Just because you feel you have a good idea, it doesn’t mean you’ve executed it well. Lastly (and my theory is it’s the most likely reason), is that most people are not ready to start investing in photo books covering the pandemic.

“A photo book may even act as a piece of nostalgia, with people wanting something physical to help them say, “I was there.””

We don’t seem to be nearing the end of our current world events. Depending on where you are in the world, cases are still increasing, and lockdowns remain strict. A lot of pressure is being put on society’s mental health, and a majority of people are doing what they can to escape the situation. Energy and interest in a topic that’s brought humanity a lot of pain are limited. Why would most people want to reinforce the image of our current times by purchasing a photo book that will only serve to remind them of the pain the world is experiencing right now?

A Photo Book at the Right Time

I’m not suggesting it’s wrong to create a photo book that explores COVID – 19 and quarantines, but it’s something that should be done over time. This story could still only be in its infancy. Doing a photobook now is like retelling a story that’s yet to be told. And when this is over with, people will need a bit of breathing space. We will need time to reflect on what happened and to readjust to life as we hopefully move forward.

When society has become more content and at peace, it will be more open to revisiting the topic and the impact COVID-19 had on the world. A photo book may even act as a piece of nostalgia, with people wanting something physical to help them say, “I was there.”

What do you think? Am I off target with this one? Would you buy a photo book covering COVID-19 right now? Let me know in the comments below.