A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS POINT OF VIEW
It's a huge grey area that everyone has an opinion on. What does Brexit really mean? ......
I suppose, many different things to many different people. Whether you opted for in our out, it's going to happen, like it or not, but not one single person (including our government) can forecast at this moment in time what the future looks like for us post March 2019 and what the implications, if any, of that would be.
Well, I'm going to look at this from my perspective as a UK wedding photographer, who photographs destination weddings in Europe, and how this may affect business and possible legal requirements for those for us who cater for couples with destination weddings within the European Union.
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
The absolute beauty of living and working within the EU was been the freedom to live and work wherever you want within the European Union's other 27 member states, which I and most of us have taken this amazing privilege for granted for all/most of my lives.
Veronica and I happened to be in Spain when we heard the news about the Brexit referendum. We were there house hunting as we couldn't think of a better place to spend our off season during the winter, and wanted to establish a base from which to continue to grow our destination weddings in Spain. The news unexpectedly threw a spanner in the works and came as a huge shock to us because we never saw it coming. Immediately afterwards questions surfaced about what was going to happen to our rights of working in the EU? where could we live and could we still have a choice after Brexit? what impact would it have on the business? and what about our marriage? I have a British passport and my wife Veronica has an Italian one, so did one of us have to give up your nationality? Questions, questions, questions ....and we all still don't have any definite answers until the deal is drawn up and signed.
So many questions that needed to be answered, many of them to do with our business which we had built up from the ground over the years. Establishing the business took time, effort and a lot of hard work. We had become very well know as destination wedding photographers in Malta, Spain, Italy and Sicily; primarily for UK couples getting married abroad.
So... if Brexit means the end of the freedom of movement between the UK and the other EU member states, does that mean we (UK photographers) don't have right to photograph weddings outside the UK without obtaining a visa or permit???
THE RULES: working OUTSIDE THE EU
As it currently stands for UK / EU professional photographers, photographing destination weddings outside the EU, you need apply for a permit or work visa via the destination countries' embassy / consulate. Generally, most countries don't allow, or they make it very difficult, to obtain permit's or visas for foreign wedding photographers because giving them permission would mean taking away money from the local economy and employment for its local photographers, who also need to support themselves and their families.
I've been asked to photograph some faraway exotic wedding destinations like Thailand, Mexico etc. I've been very tempted because I loved backpacking around and holidaying in these countries. As many destination photographers do offer international weddings services, I did do some research and reached out a few UK photographers that had these destination wedding blogs outside the EU on their websites. I've asked how difficult it was to obtain their work permits etc. but most didn't answer to that question. Some did not know they needed any, some told me of what they should have done, it but didn't and just winged it. All the answers I received I kind of expected, but was still uncomfortable with them as I thought about what could have happened if they got caught.
Destination Wedding Photographers that wing it, go under the thin disguise that they are just wedding guests and not professional photographers. They just happen to have bags full of camera equipment if asked, they cross their fingers and hope for the best. I think most get away with it, but with all the heightened security at airports nowadays, customs aren't stupid. They could easily see that a professional photographer would be carrying slightly more photographic equipment that a holidaymaker. I'm sure that following a little questioning and a quick google search of his/her name on the passport would show that they are indeed a wedding photographer. In some cases these wedding photographers have been turned around and not let into the country. This would be terrible situation for the bride & groom to be in if they lost their trusted photographer at the last minute. The worse case scenario for the photographer is their equipment confiscated, and having to refund all monies back to clients, S/he will be out of pocket as well as facing the music on social media that they let down their couple on their special day.
I really don't know how destination photographers justify doing this (without obtaining a permit) but this is something I'm not prepared to do as it's a risk that goes against the responsibility to my couples, the trust they have in me as well as seriously damaging my livelihood and business reputation.
A BREXIT HANGOVER
This headache is a real possibility that could lie ahead of us (UK destination photographers) post Brexit, if freedom of movement is stopped or restricted in anyway. The rivers of red tape, permits, fees, visas, could all be a reality of what is now is now seen as a right of passage as the UK with the wedding industry booming with the popularity of warm sunshine weddings abroad .
Everything hangs in the balance right now, but if the Brexit deal struck with the EU nations puts a stop to our 'Freedom of Movement' as we know it, we might all technically have to apply for visa and permits to photograph any weddings in Europe as we have to now when working outside the EU.
I do remember years ago having to go through so much paperwork for a photographic work visa to photograph within the USA during a press trip for a UK newspaper travel supplement - and that was to promote the holidays to the USA, which is in their interests. I do know that America has become even more strict and its hurdles raised to get permission granted .
During the many years of photographing 100's destination weddings, Veronica and I did have many conversations about how we missing out on our family and friends lives' back in the UK while we are working away. After hearing that surprising announcement that Britain was going to be leaving the EU while we were in Spain, we decided then it was time to draw a line in the sand and start to plan and change our focus (no pun intended) to weddings within the UK, be at home, where the heart is.
It's really been a blast. We've met some amazing couples who we now call friends, worked in the sunshine and seen beautiful venues and locations. It's now was time for us to 'come home' and start our next new challenge of establishing ourselves in Newcastle Upon Tyne in the North East of England and it's surrounding counties, Northumberland, Cumbria, Durham and Scotland, as well as across the UK.
I'm sure over the following months we all will (I hope) get much more clearer understanding of what lies ahead of us all and the direct implications that it will have on our lives, relationships, businesses and how can we all work together. But until then.....we'll wait and see what develops (ye olde photographic pun intended)
However it pans out, the biggest lesson I've learnt in Photography is from a negative we make a positive (pre-digital photography reference)
"Life doesn't get better by chance, it gets better by change"