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COVID 19: SWNS – How’s the photo agency doing now?

Almost six months on we have been back to the photo agencies who participated in our COVID-19: How’s the photo agency doing? feature to ask How are they doing NOW?

Today Jon Mills, Picture Editor at SWNS reports:

Finding the balance between keeping our commercial customers happy and our newswire packed with pictures whilst ensuring our photographers neither catch nor spread the virus has been a challenge.


So far we have had no confirmed cases of Covid 19 on the picture desk but keeping it that way is going to require sticking to our guidelines and a fair amount of luck.


As lockdown eased we saw the volume of commissioned work return to normal, we hope we can maintain that through the winter if additional measures are imposed by the government.


We were grateful to receive a grant from the Google Journalism Emergency Relief Fund which will help safeguard jobs and we’re cautiously optimistic that we’re in a good place to ride the coming months.


Our desk based staff have mostly returned to the office about 50% of the time which I think is going to become a healthy long term trend.
During the lockdown period we’ve successfully released a massive update to our platform for contributors and are now delivering ever faster payment times and an all round better experience for the people who share their content with us.


I know I’ve mentioned balance twice already but being able to offer a quick, transparent and fair system for citizen journalists whilst maintaining a team of skilled professional photographers really is the key to our newswire offering.

Photographer Adam Gray is arrested in New York Photo courtesy Craig Ruttle.
A British photographer arrested and charged for simply doing his job covering the American police brutality protests in New York is to have all indictments dropped. Adam Gray, 33, a New York-based photojournalist for agency SWNS, was thrown to the ground by police, restrained and handcuffed as he chronicled violent rallies in the wake of the George Floyd killing. He spent twelve hours in custody amongst the protestors before being charged with unlawful assembly near Union Square. Adam’s arrest and treatment of other journalists as they went about their lawful business on the frontline of news gathering caused worldwide outrage.


Also we received support from Number 10 when one of our photographers was arrested during a protest in New York, (above) we had IPSO find in our favour after a tweet went viral wrongly claiming we’re misled people with a photo caption, we provided a photo to help launch the Duchess of Cambridge’s photo project, we got the Guardian Eyewitness three days in a row and our colleagues on the newsdesk have launched a podcast.

SWNS made the Guardian Eyewitness page three days in a row – Photo Adam Gray


In this extraordinary time I’ve asked so much of my colleagues and I’m so proud of how they’ve responded, I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to taking them out for an almighty party when this is over.

• Here’s Jon’s April 2020 COVID-19: How’s the agency doing? SWNS report
• View all SWNS on PAN

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