Calgary photographer uses COVID downtime to bring hope to city

Summer is usually photographer Arshad Chaudhry’s busiest time of year, packed with South Asian weddings and events, but this year has been very different.

His is one of countless Calgary businesses that have seen work grind to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But he’s using the extra time to put his skills and photography equipment to good use. He says he wants to remind COVID-weary Calgarians that no matter how bad things are, they live in a special city.

He’s producing a video called Why Calgary using drone photography to showcase a range of local scenery and landmarks, highlighting Calgary’s strengths.

“The idea is hope. We want to spread hope because right now everyone is depressed, businesses are under pressure and nothing is normal,” said Chaudhry.

  • WATCH | Fly over the city with the Why Calgary project in the video above

“From March to October is wedding season. That’s my business, my living, that’s how I survive, and we’ve had five months with no work,” he said.

He note that only recently have weddings been taking place, but on a much smaller scale and budget than usual.

Arshad Chaudhry is pictured with two drones he’s using to film a documentary to make Calgarians feel positive about their city during the pandemic. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Chaudhry wanted to create something positive out of a bad situation, saying people’s mental health and emotional needs are more important than ever. He believes highlighting some of Calgary’s great scenery and architecture in a short documentary is one way to make people feel energized again.

“In 2013, when we had the floods, we were so strong and we are still the same Calgarians,” he said.

“Calgary is still so pretty,” Chaudhry said. “And the view from the air is a very different view.”

He says he also wants to send a message for people to remember and support local businesses across the city, many who’ve been struggling or have already closed their doors.

“The documentary shows our communities, our lakes, our rivers, our shopping malls, some of our businesses and our backyard, the Rockies,” Chaudhry said.

One of two drones Arshad Chaudhry used to to film a documentary in and around Calgary, featuring the city’s beauty. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Chaudhry says he’s been busy navigating the red tape and various permits required to get the aerial footage he wanted, including shots of downtown Calgary and many other parts of the city.

He says he hopes his short film might also help attract international visitors, putting Calgary on their radar when travel resumes.

The Why Calgary documentary should be ready later in September.

Chaudhry says he’ll publish the movie on his website and Facebook page.

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