Gear (and Self) Care in a Time of Coronavirus

Carnival mask in black and white - pano. photo by Alina Oswald.

On keeping yourself and your photo gear as safe as possible when photographing on location in a time of coronavirus

“Go wash your hands!” My mom would say every time I would show up for any meal. An infectious disease doctor treating contagious diseases day in and day out, she never, ever brought home any viruses from the hospital, nor did she get sick from any diseases she was treating at her work. Among the things she’d do to keep the viruses and “bugs” at work and not bring them home, was washing her hands several times a day. In fact, washing her hands had become second nature to her.

Hands - Self-Portraits in Black-and-White. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Hands – Self-Portraits in Black-and-White. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

I think I’ve become aware of all these little things my mom would do, from a pretty early age. And maybe it’s a good thing to have that kind of awareness, especially now, in a time of coronavirus, and other flu viruses for that matter. I believe that it’s that kind of learned behavior that can potentially help us stay as safe as possible. The idea is to be aware of what can happen and of what we can do to stay clear of the coronavirus, as much as possible, without panicking about it.

Photographer at Work. Photo by Alina Oswald.
Photographer at Work.

As photographers, we often have to photograph on location. Those of us living in or around large cities, oftentimes end up taking public transportation and, on the way to the shoot and during the shoot, come in close proximity with people. We can’t really avoid these kinds of encounters, especially when they are paying gigs.

While avoiding shaking hands and coming in close proximity with people might not (yet) be possible all the time or come naturally, as photographers we can carry with us disinfecting (wet) wipes, to clean our hands and gear, especially after the photo shoot, and after we get back home.

Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to get in habit of thoroughly wiping our smartphones or laptops or other mobile devices and photo gear, including camera body and lenses, speed lights and any other gear used during the photo shoot. Once back home, also clean the subway/metro card, if one was used, as well as house and car keys.

With all this talk about coronavirus, only recently I started to wipe my gear with antibacterial cleaning wipes on a regular basis. (keywords are “on a regular basis”) Then I wash my own hands. (common advice is to scrub hands in water/soap for as long as it takes for you to sing “Happy Birthday.”) Guess, the idea is not to just splash water over your hands, but really take time to wash them thoroughly. One note I’d like to add: when washing hands frequently, the skin on your hands might get dry and even crack (mine cracks and even bleeds when I go out in the cold, even when wearing gloves; and it’s not pleasant, to say to least); therefore, it’s a good idea to apply hand lotion, after washing your hands.

Mask in black and white. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Mask in black and white. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Being raised by two medical doctors, one of them an infectious disease specialist, and then covering HIV/AIDS for almost two decades, interviewing and photographing many experts in the field (and also based on some common sense), I personally believe that awareness is important–awareness in general and, now, in particular when it comes to this coronavirus. Awareness, not panic. Awareness, not complacency. The more we know and the more we educate ourselves, the better.

So, stay safe and healthy out there. And, as always, thanks for stopping by.

Alina Oswald

P.S. – Updates: Two weeks after writing this post, coronavirus has officially become a pandemic; many public events have been canceled “until further notice,” shaking hands is becoming a thing of the past as we speak, and many people, hopefully, are finally waking up to the new reality in which we live. AO


  1. I never thought of washing/disinfecting my travel card. Or my Disability Taxi Concession Card either. Thanks for that tip Alina. I do worry when getting a taxi and the driver is sneezing or coughing though. Having a severe heart condition and several other severe health issues means I’m usually reluctant to mix in public at the best of times. I came down with a severe flu/cold/cough the day after visiting my local library and doing about 6-7 errands in my local shopping centre a few years ago and I wondered whether even handling books & library card brought on that disastrous illness.

    Love the B & W ‘hands’ photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Vicki, thanks so much for your kind words. (I did leave a reply earlier, but don’t seem to see it…) Just wanted to thank you for your note and for sharing your story. Hope you’re feeling better. I completely agree with you. It does make sense. Here, having to use public transportation on a regular basis makes me more aware of what I touch or come in touch with, especially these days. But it takes time to get used to it and reach that level of awareness. Guess it’s a learning process….

    Thank you again for your kind words and your note. We’ll get through this.

    Liked by 1 person

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