Philadelphia Photographer, Emily P. Townsend Shares Experiences in Quarantine
By Brian Walker
Adapting to your career in the midst of a quarantine is difficult for all of us. Whether you are in a creative or non creative field many of us have had to do some adjusting over the past few months. I did a photo shoot with Emily P. Townsend is a local photographer and asked her a few questions about her experiences with photography, BLM and quarantine. The Philadelphia Globe would like to welcome, Emily P. Townsend.
How long have you been a photographer?
I’ve been practicing photography since I was 16. It was the only class I excelled in during high school times. It was an outlet for me, in so many ways and continues to be.
How long have you been shooting in the Philadelphia area?
I was raised in the Philly suburbs so I’ve been shooting locally for my entire career. It began with friends and then I expanded my network to musicians and creatives, and then to anyone who caught my eye or sought my special niche.
What type of Photography do you specialize in?
Primarily, I am a portrait photographer. I like to think that I make people feel good about themselves and the way they look as they are. Portrait photography is absolutely an art form. You have to be good at comforting others. I think I’m great at that.
How did COVID 19 impact your career prior to adapting to socially distanced shoots?
For the past year, I have been operating out of a studio space in Coatesville, PA. Because of covid, that space remained unused for months and unfortunately, I had to forfeit my lease this summer. On the other hand, I have been committed to continually creating and have been shooting people in my backyard space! This pandemic has been a disaster in endless ways, but the silver lining is finding ways to creatively continue. It has been a challenge, but we artists are resilient.
Has it been difficult to market yourself as a photographer in the area due to COVID 19?
Oddly enough, I have been getting a variety of new clients. I’ve never been keen on marketing, which makes me not very good at it. But the word is spreading especially with doing socially distant shoots. My work speaks for itself, so I’m thinking (and hoping) that’s the reason it has been grabbing people’s attention.
As a photographer you tend to shoot people based on themes, has the quarantine had any impact on your creative angles with photography?
My approach has always had a spooky element. I’ve been inspired by ghost stories and horror tropes. And actually, quarantine has inspired me in so many ways. I have been doing pandemic related shoots, as people come wearing their masks and gloves. In May, I shot a one-person video I like to call, a moving portrait, for a song by Kate Faust. It will be released soon so I am excited about that too.
What other insights have you gained from being a photographer in this climate?
Two things: Safety and Intersectionality. Because I am studying to someday be a psychotherapist, trauma-informed photography has been big for me. Staying safely away from my subjects and making sure they are comfortable with the environment and distance has changed the game for sure. In many ways, this pandemic has been traumatic. I want everyone to feel comfortable and feel their best when shooting with me. I have also been offering free photography services for the black community. I am a strong advocate for Black Lives Matter and this is one service I am able to provide confidently since money has definitely been an issue during COVID. I strongly believe that everyone deserves a chance to feel beautiful and safe.