This is the twenty third blog in a series on COVID-19 and lockdown, edited by firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
In order to care for the patients diagnosed with COVID-19 within ICU (intensive care unit) each member of staff involved had to be ‘fit’ tested for appropriate masks and outfits following UK’s Government and Nursing Council guidelines.
I was one of the first to attend and pass the safety measures to work in ICU from the start of the pandemic at Bassetlaw Hospital. My colleagues and I attended meetings, briefs, updates and intense rapid training ensuring we were equipped with as much knowledge as possible.
As a professional photographer I watched the days evolve with wide-awake eyes noting each detail of how the team came together to save lives. I knew I had to catalogue this historical narrative.
I questioned myself “Where does this leave me ethically as a health practitioner and photographer, combining both roles, balancing values and priorities?”
Reflecting on where I once took inspiration during my studies in photography, I sought permission to create a photo journal in homage to the patients and my colleagues. I was aware of colleagues who had contracted COVID-19 during work and that one had died.
The American documentary photographer Dorothea Lange, best known for capturing the spirit of the poor and forgotten during the Depression-era said “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”
As a photographer I have always tended to overthink, question and reflect on each personal project. “What would these photos imply. would I want to have my photograph taken during this time if I were on the other side of the camera in my uniform?” I reflected on the writings of Susan Sontag author of ‘On Photography’ said .“The camera may “intrude, trespass, distort, [and] exploit.”
Similarly Roland Barthes, the French essayist and social and literary critic whose writings on semiotics remain influential for Photography, said in his book ‘Camera Lucida’ “a specific photograph reaches me; it animates me, and I animate it. So that is how I must name the attraction which makes it exist: an animation.”
The ethics of documenting this extremely emotive historical period of the COVID-19 pandemic were of the utmost importance. My images were taken with full permission of the director of Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust where I work for as well as from my colleagues.
Editor’s Note: Jules Hunter is a qualified Operating Department Practitioner and trained mental health nurse. She has a 1st class Honours degree in fine art photography from Derby University and is a professional photographer. She recently won two Bronzes in the Documentary category of the Rise International Photography Award.
She continues with personal contemporary photography project “Tabula Rasa”.
Other blogs in this series: