COVID-19 Prevention Advice, Resources, and History

For Film Photographers

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A November 2020 news episode on a popular Canadian TV, YouTube channel. This is a clip they plaid of Dr. Hans Kluge of the World Health Organization speaking from Copenhagen, Denmark. He shared the news of 29,000 COVID-19 deaths in Europe during the prior week.

This article is my attempt to provide relevant information and updates for Analog.Cafe readers in light of the global pandemic.

Below, you will find an overview of the latest — as of Jan 26, 2022 — scientific research on pathogen safety, resource links for mental health and financial support pages, and a brief history of the film photography community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Note: If you have a correction or would like to contribute to this guide, please contact me.

Pathogen safety.

This section summarizes the latest research on COVID-19 disease.

Background: I work as a senior web developer at WebMD. I build applications for healthcare professionals but I am not a doctor nor a scientist. In this article, I simply use my understanding of how to read and interpret scientific papers, which I’ve got at the University of Toronto as a BSc undergraduate student of 2009. I am making my best attempt to back each claim I make here with a direct link to the relevant paper.

The COVID-19 disease, caused by the SARS‐CoV‐2 virus, is believed to infect people through cough droplets and fine aerosol particles that escape our mouths in certain circumstances. Those particles may persist in the air for some time and precipitate or get slathered on inanimate objects, like film and cameras. You may learn about the dynamics of droplets from this video.

The virus is also known to replicate efficiently in cats and some other domestic animals. The linked article describes lab-controlled settings for infection, not real-world scenarios.

Many persons end up carrying and spreading the virus without showing any symptoms. The pathogen is highly contagious, much more than seasonal flu, and it is also ten times more likely to kill a person than seasonal flu. Aside from contact, the likelihood of infection depends on the total number of viruses allowed to enter our bodies, i.e., infectious dose, which is speculated to be in hundreds.

Minimizing the exposure is, therefore, critical for illness prevention. To do so, we have three tools at our disposition: vaccines,  isolation, and hygiene.

Vaccines.

If you can: get vaccinated. Vaccines’ “active ingredient” is either A) a deactivated virus or B) a biological signal for our bodies that describes what the coronavirus looks like. Both A & B perform the same function: they help our immune system recognize and prepare for a previously-unknown threat.

The ability of our immune system to “learn” about pathogens is a natural function that it uses it to fight off the disease before it could take over our bodies. This is how you don’t end up re-infecting yourself right after you get over a cold.

Vaccines’ effect is non-binary, which means that they are unlikely to ever give you 100% protection. However, every 1% we add to our ability to repel the disease helps us stay healthier and avoid becoming vectors of disease.

More info about vaccines from the World Health Organization.

Additional info on Pfizer–BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen, Novavax, AstraZeneca, CoronaVac, Covaxin, Sinopfarm, and Sputnik vaccines (follow the links above).

Isolation and barriers.

Isolation is a reasonably straightforward strategy. Stay away from the virus, and it won’t get you.

Aside from keeping a distance, face masks play a key role in the prevention of the infection as they isolate the movement of small liquid particles that come out of our mouths when we breathe and speak that may contain the virus.

All credible health authorities implore you to wear a mask whenever you are in proximity of others.

Hygiene.

Hygiene and cameras have been discussed on PetaPixel, particularly the use of alcohol wipes on gear and lenses. However, there could be issues disinfecting equipment with leather trim; alcohol is also capable of deteriorating some plastic components. In practice, it’s a lot easier to just keep the hands clean.

✪ Note: Do not attempt to bathe your camera in alcohol; that may render it useless. Do not use bleach; it can react with your camera’s components. Avoid brushing hand sanitizer on your gear; it can make everything sticky.

Understanding coronaviruses.

The gelatine content in photographic film can not facilitate the growth of the virus. Its surface may retain the contamination for up to 9 days, as mentioned above. However, unlike bacterium, all viral agents require specific live host cells to replicate and can not rely on feed protein alone.

I think it’s important to also understand that the science’s understanding of the SARS‐CoV‐2 virus is still ongoing. Viruses replicate very quickly, and each time they do — tiny imperfections in the copy change the virus slightly. This effect magnifies each time the virus replicates in our bodies producing differing “siblings.” Because those siblings have different odds of survival in the wild (or our bodies), some come out on top — which is the case with the Omicron variant (a notable “sibling” line), which’s differentiating property is its ability to infect our bodies more efficiently.

It’s difficult to predict the future winning virus variant — even more so: an effective measure against it, applicable to everyone in the city, country, world. This is why your health authority’s recommendations may change as we play catch-up with the virus’ constantly changing army of siblings.

Should you like to learn more about this virus from elsewhere, I recommend you check the references and ensure that the information is derived from a reputable scientific publication, authored by people with a Ph.D. in a related field of study. Your ability to discern reasonable evidence from speculation and misinterpretation is paramount — see the research on the quality of information online.

Although the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic is universal, we all react to it differently. I hope that you find the above information helpful in making your decisions on how to stay healthy and safe.

Resources for mental and financial health for creative professionals.

Someone from UC Berkely has reached out to me with a link to their resources on how to deal with mental health challenges. This list of links and advice is curated specifically for creative professionals, focusing on burnout and self-care.

The following links are for curated lists of financial help resources for creative professionals. Note that these resources were first published in May-April 2020 and thus you may have to sift through them to see which programs are still running. Booooooom, Covid-19 Freelance Artist Resource, PHLEARN, Fstoppers, Creative Capital, LensCulture, and Kickstarter.

Film photography community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial shock of the spreading COVID-19 being declared yielded a flurry of drastic decisions made by business and community leaders. Analog.Cafe’s first response was a version of this article and a contest, “Monochrome at Home,” meant to benefit a group of underserved creative professionals in the UK and give something to do for those looking for a creative output at the time.

Emulsive published a list of sixty-five photographic projects to do at home. Over 1,000 online photography courses became available free, according to TechRadar.

Ilford Photo announced on 3/30/‘20 that they are temporarily suspending film production. On 6/18/‘20, the company resumed production. Kodak began supplying Isopropyl Alcohol to New York State and later got nearly a billion in loans from the US for pharmaceutical research. Fujifilm began testing a drug, Avigan/Favipiravir, as a possible treatment for the disease.

Analogue Wonderland had initially suspended shipping orders outside the UK for a few months.

Henry’s, “[o]ne of Canada’s oldest camera retailers,” is in financial trouble, apparently made conspicuous by the epidemic.

Shortly after the pandemic’s onset, a wave of protests following Gorge Floyd’s killing by the police overtook the US and many cities worldwide, including mine. I made my stance clear on the systematic repression of non-white people on this website. I continue to learn about racism, sexism, and white privilege (as a white person) — and the hurt these acts deliver to all human beings.

In 2022, two years after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, another crisis, a global supply chain disruption, is causing film price hikes and shortages.