Mar 28, 2021

2020: Disneyland's Most Exclusive Year

Luck plays a big role in being a travel photographer, because a random story can sometimes elevate snapshots into a document of something more profound.

I certainly couldn't have predicted it at the time, but when Disneyland in Anaheim, California closed around this time last year at the start of the pandemic, suddenly having images that were shot inside the park in 2020 (in retrospect) turned our touristy day off at 'the Happiest Place on Earth' into one of my most exclusive travel shoots.

On March 14, 2020 both Disneyland and California Adventure closed to the public. After lasting more than a year, plans for reopening have finally been scheduled for April 2021, but this closure is unlike anything Disneyland has experienced since it first opened in 1955. 

To put it dramatically, there were only 10 weeks a person could have gone to Disneyland in 2020 making it the most exclusive year in the park's history. 

Disneyland 2020 California Adventure Closing

What's interesting about shooting travel content professionally is that you quickly learn to lean into a lot of what you can't control. It just so happened that coincidentally timing a visit to one of the world's most popular tourist destinations a few weeks before a global pandemic turned a casual shoot into something archival practically overnight.  

What does this mean? Nothing really. But in a year filled with a lot of nothing, it's just a bit crazy to have such a stark contrast stuck in my head between then and now. 

I still have hundreds of images of Disneyland from the 2020 visit yet to be released, but just after the closing last year I posted a new series from Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge that immediately took off amid the publicity surrounding the park closures. I can't help but draw comparisons to my travel shoots in Paris last year, where otherwise timeless destinations were instantly dated by the realities that 2020 brought.

As the reopenings continue, and as I find myself trying to build some context around the changes of this last year, I do think it's funny that a random trip to Disneyland became a novelty because of the date. Then again, I feel like a lot things are going to seem like a novelty after 2020.

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