For some, the COVID-19 pandemic was a life changing experience. When businesses had to cease trading and schools shut their doors, the world hadn’t seen interruption of this scale since World War 2. In this blog series, we’re sitting down with some of those people to discuss their Pandemic Stories. For the first entry in the series we’re staying a little bit closer to home (this is a pilot, after all), with MyPudsey developer and team member – Glenn. Glenn and his wife Hayley run two businesses in our town, their primary business is a photography business that specialises in wedding photography, christenings, family photoshoots and more. We spoke to Glenn to find out more, read on to hear their experiences.
We’re Glenn & Hayley, we’re a husband and wife team that run two businesses in Pudsey. Our primary business is Glenn Taylor Photography, we offer a number of photography services including but not limited to; weddings, christenings, family portraits and corporate portraits.
We first setup Glenn Taylor Photography in 2018 following a trip to Greece for a family friend’s wedding, during that trip I couldn’t resist the opportunity to photograph some of our friend’s wedding including the speeches and evening party. After processing and sharing the photos, we received such positive feedback and comments that it prompted a discussion between ourselves on how we could finally turn the dream into reality. On return from Greece we got to work straight away picking up marketing materials, setting up Social Media channels, website and much more to get started.
Since 2018 we’ve gone from strength to strength, more and more people are trusting us to photograph their special day, or their children’s special day as each week goes by. We also take a lot of pride from our family photoshoots, although these only last between 30 and 60 minutes, we truly cherish the photographs we capture of families having a great time in the great outdoors.
We’re strong believers of working fair, we have no hidden charges, what you see is what you get and it’s a mantra we have stuck to since day 1 and will continue to stick to until we retire.
I was aware of the emerging threat quite early, I am what some people would describe as a ‘doomscroller’. When I find news on something negative, it tends to consume me. Given the world we live in right now – you can imagine that has a bit of an effect. Although I can’t remember exact dates, late January/early February I started to pick up on the news talking about a pneumonia like illness spreading through China. Although like many, I dismissed it as another SARS or Bird Flu. Both of these illnesses at the time were very serious, but they eventually fizzled out before getting out of control.
The world seems to go through cycles of new illnesses appearing, but just as quickly as they became a topic, they disappeared – I strongly believed that would be the case this time… How wrong I was!
By the time the Prime Minister gave his orders to stay home, work from home and only leave for essentials I was already working from home. Honestly looking back, it’s a strange feeling – I’m sure many readers will have seen repeats of Boris stating “You must stay at home” – watching that clip back gives me goosebumps, it’s what you expect to see in the film Contagion, but real life? Really?
Being a little bit of an introvert, at first it felt somewhat like a novelty. I’ve always been a proponent of flexible working such as working from home. Up until that point it had been something I could only do in a limited fashion so for me to now be instructed to work that way daily – great, I thought. No commute, more time in bed, comfier surrounds. As time went on however, my mood changed, my wife Hayley will vouch for the impact the pandemic started to have on me.
I think the first time I noticed just how much of a life changing impact this was going to have on us was on the 26th March 2020, our little boy’s 2nd birthday. I’m sure many of you will have told your little ones that they couldn’t see grandparents and family and witnessed the reaction, akin to a meltdown. This time it was different, it wasn’t just because we were busy, or they were busy. This time, the Government had instructed it… And on his birthday of all days? Unbelievable.
I’ve always had an element of struggle with my mental health, but when you’re unable to see friends and family, pop to the pub, go for a nice meal or even get out with my wonderful clients for a walk in the woods to take some photos – that is damaging.
In the first instance we shut the business down entirely, after all we certainly aren’t “key workers”. On the 21st March we posted a business update with a picture of our little boy playing on a swing with the title “Keep Smiling” and an update on the business, informing people we were suspending photoshoots. This, just 2 days after advertising Mother’s Day gifts.
Mind blowing, even now, that a business we had been working so hard on for 2 years suddenly had to stop but we understood the risks not only to us, but our customers. To try lighten the mood, and keep our Social Media presence alive we started to post some of our favourite landscape images which was quite popular.
A month later we had a few messages from people talking about a new concept “Doorstep Portraits”. Now we aren’t usually one to follow the crowd but not only was it a way for us to stay active – but it was also a way to document an incredibly strange time in history. We got in touch with a few friends and family to test the concept, and on the 2nd May 2020 we advertised them. Under the circumstances, the response was incredible! We got to photograph around 20 households around the area in a way that they will remember forever.
As mentioned, we love our family portraits but the business relies on our services to weddings and christenings. Pretty much overnight we had postponements and cancellations, and over the course of the next few months every single wedding and christening would follow. It wasn’t until mid October 2020 before we were able to photograph our first wedding, of course this wasn’t your usual wedding. It was limited to 15 guests and the evening reception had been cancelled with a planned party to take place at a later date. Face coverings were worn, there was no stand up drinks reception and I wasn’t permitted to move during the ceremony to capture varied photographs – but again, it was all to protect the guests and staff at the venue so it was ok.
I’ve mentioned many facets of operating during the pandemic, but the biggest impact again was our wedding offering. Although we have done a few weddings more recently, the majority we have done have been under heavy restrictions – some with a maximum of 15 guests, other with a maximum 30. In some respects it was quite sad to be photographing weddings where you knew there was people who should have been there that simply could not, and for our couples the prospect of postponing further could mean waiting as long as 2023/2024 for a wedding date. After all, venues all had a tremendous backlog of cancelled weddings that they had to somehow reorganise.
We have witnessed many changes to your standard wedding day, from the obvious things such as wearing face coverings and remaining seated through to things you wouldn’t expect such as the best man being unable to carry the wedding rings to minimise contact. People we speak to are still very surprised to hear that you couldn’t even hold a stand up drinks reception and you weren’t permitted to dance or sing. Wedding DJs and bands became essentially extinct when restrictions were in play.
Despite many other industries relaxing, weddings weren’t permitted more than 30 people involved until the 19th July 2021. During the earlier months of 2021 we became vocal about the lack of support for weddings, which even led to a random encounter with Katie Radley, a reporter for Global Radio and Capital FM. After tweeting our disappointment with the restrictions we were invited to say our piece on radio, which we did willingly.
Ultimately, it has been a very strange 18 months.
I think my proudest achievement throughout the pandemic is probably my contribution to this website. The Pandemic exposed the fragility of business and life its self and although we’ve always been community minded, we wanted to give something back in our own way.
Pudsey is a proud place, with proud people and good, strong businesses and we wanted to support that and to try and help those businesses bounce back stronger from the past 18 months. Our other business is called Glenn Taylor Digital, and we specialise in Website Development, I have been developing websites much longer than I have been taking pictures. Using this knowledge myself and my wife Hayley formed a team with Trish Smith and Damon Sugden to produce the website you’re reading this on today.
After spending many years searching Facebook pages and groups to find local businesses we decided the time was right to produce the most comprehensive website and business directory, that is 100% free for all to use regardless of who you are or what you do in Pudsey.
I’m really proud of this website and what we have produced in such a short space of time, and I really hope businesses are finding it valuable.
I have a couple of frustrations, the first is the amount of support for people such as myself in industries that are essentially freelance. These industries make up a lot of the supply chain for weddings and they fell through the cracks for Government financial support. The support we received for both businesses was less than 1 wedding. I’m very fortunate to work in a full time role alongside my businesses, I feel truly sorry for those that didn’t have that lifeline. Businesses have regular outgoings, that in a lot of cases can’t simply be put on hold, for us to be told to cease work and not have any protection was disappointing.
The only other frustration was around the easing of restrictions, football stadiums and other venues were taking on people in the thousands whilst weddings continued to be limited to the arbitrary limit of 30.
None of this however is more important than the people and families who have lost loved ones to this terrible disease, although I have my frustrations when placed in to perspective – things weren’t really that bad.
I’m feeling more positive as each week goes by, our business has pretty much returned to normal. We’re back in the swing of photographing weddings, christenings, families and much more and it feels great. Of course we’re now heading in to Winter where life may become slightly more difficult, but with the tremendous rollout of the vaccination programme we are in a much stronger place than even 6 months ago. Our favourite time of the year has arrived too in Autumn (expertly demonstrated by our beautiful little boy, below), who doesn’t love the variety of colours gracing our parks and green spaces?
Here’s to a bright, healthy future! ?
We hope you enjoyed reading Glenn’s post and his experiences faced during the pandemic. We want to speak to more individuals and businesses in our town with their own experiences that they wish to share, if you are interested then please do get in touch with the team.
If you want to find out more about Glenn & Hayley, and their business you can head over to their website https://glenntaylor.photography/ or alternatively they’re very active on Social Media – you can find them on Facebook or for more unique work take a look at their Instagram.