The year of 2021 has been deeply unusual for live events and event photography. When it began in January, the still-raging pandemic meant that most events of any scale were pretty much off the cards. Indoor events were certainly a no-no. Now they are back.
By the time summer arrived, things had changed, or were changing. Covid-19 case rates were down, the vaccine had been administered to large numbers of people, a sense of new hope and optimism was tentatively being shared. How many more waves could there be?
In June the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament was held across Europe, and it felt much like a return to normality had been achieved in some parts. I photographed one match at Wembley in the early stages of the tournament, when the stadium was still restricted to half capacity.
The capacity allowance grew as the tournament progressed and England progressed. Although in terms of safety and fan-management, the spectacle of the final match was borderline disastrous.
In August I photographed an open-air live music event at Cardiff Castle for one of the event sponsors, Shelter Cymru. People came to enjoy the music, have a drink and a dance and a laugh.
The performers glittered and shone. To hear and feel their music at such close quarters itself felt moving. Such performers had been starved of their livelihood and passion for a long time.
Still, there was caution over indoor events. Just as at the height of the pandemic, and as discussed on these pages before, throughout the last 18 months there has been a broad spectrum of attitude. Your position in this spectrum could depend on many things: your medical vulnerability, your general anxiety levels, your sense of isolation or loneliness, your experience of the pandemic and how closely you have or have not been affected, your general attitude – fatalistic and carefree, or cautious and sensible.
But indoor events and conferences have now returned to Wales. At least for now. And I am back photographing them.
It might be mildly uncomfortable at first, entering a room of around eighty unmasked strangers, hearing the occasional muffled cough, hearing someone saying they’d just been ‘pinged’ by the NHS app but it’s ok because they’ve been double-jabbed.
Of course if you’re delivering a professional service, then you just push on, take the precautions you can, and do what feels comfortable for you. It remains a deeply subjective and sensitive area that requires basic mutual respect and decency between people.
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