This is a story about what we can generate from inspiration, collaboration and some positive, caring determination.
All the time in the world
Lockdown was looming in the UK, the Covid-19 pandemic became official. People started looking at healthcare with fresh eyes and a far higher regard than ever before.
Photo sessions were off the table and capturing human connection, a joy in my life, had become unsafe. So I decided to go sifting through old photos thinking “Well, I’ve got all the time in the world.”.
I came across some work I’d done as an artist in the healthcare sector about 20 years ago. This included mural painting and photographs of hospital staff in London. It was wonderful to rediscover my passion to help make healthcare environments more aesthetic.
About 2am that night I had an idea that burst out from the echo of the applause for NHS workers. I couldn’t sleep. I envisioned a beautiful tribute of portraits of healthcare workers exhibited across the UK. And then I realised that I couldn’t do this alone.
From spontaneous FB Live came a nationwide project
That very morning, 22nd March 2020, I started a FB Live, inviting photographers across the UK to join me.
Enquiries started pouring in. My phone started ringing with offers to help and collaborate. One of them came from Annie Murray. We met on a shoot a few years back and and got on really well to the point we each thought we should work together at some point.
Annie’s a videographer who runs Edit Sweet. Her own story is very inspiring as she’s built herself up from a painful fall in life, which has led her to helping others. She founded a charitable organisation called Horizon, which is dedicated to providing film and photography workshops for people in recovery from addiction. Over the phone we agreed to work together to build up a network of photographers to help capture these amazing people, behind the mask. There and then we named it, the 2020 Vision Project.
Would all this have happened if?
There was a point where I realised that this journey may never have happened, if it weren’t for another collaboration that started in 2016.
Benita Matofska and I met several years ago. I had admired her drive and passion to create global change. Benita’s a world-leading speaker on the Sharing Economy, a system that encourages the sharing of human and physical resources. In 2016, she asked me to collaborate with her on the book Generation Share. She wanted to bring sharing stories to life with photography. So over 3 years, we met, documented and photographed over 200 change-makers. Generation Share celebrated its first anniversary of publication on the 17th June 2020.
I do get asked “What is a changemaker?” for me, a changemaker is someone who doesn’t accept the status quo, who sees an area in life that needs help and sees the potential to transform it for the better. They are courageous, inspiring and determined. This for me fits the description of each person I met and photographed on the Generation Share journey.
Yet it wasn’t until people started holding the Generation Share book in their hands, that I realised the power of positive storytelling. People needed strong, positive human stories. Especially during this tumultuous time we are experiencing on this planet.
News can get overpowered by dark and upsetting stories. We can be forgiven for believing that we live in a terrible world with little hope and a shortage of kindness. However, from my own experience, I see much kindness in the people I meet. And it’s something I like to draw out of people with my photography.
Working on Generation Share has been a life changing experience. Meeting such inspirational people made me want to step up my game and start something meaningful. So I don’t think the 2020 Vision Project would have occurred, if it wasn’t for meeting over 200 change-makers through Generation Share.
2020 Vision Project Launch
Managing this project has been a full throttle experience from the word go. Annie and I have been blessed with the help of friends and associates as well as a wonderful band of talented photographers. Also we were very grateful to receive Arts Council Funding, through the Horizon project, which has enabled us to kickstart our tribute to healthcare.
We have an upcoming launch on the 25th to 27th September in London. This marks six months since the Lockdown started and we plan to run more exhibitions across the UK.
Behind the Scenes
Our photographers have been shooting photo sessions all across the UK, utilising wonderful rural and urban landscapes as well as Covid-19 safe photography studios. Their brief is to photograph people in the NHS and healthcare workers, behind the mask and capture human connection. We’ve invited each photographer to use their creative flair to demonstrate a variety of portraiture on this project. As they are doing so, they share with us behind the scene shots.
So far we have all kinds of healthcare workers, with such incredible stories (see below) and we cannot wait to share this project to the world!
Many photographers have used their networks to find an incredible selection people throughout the healthcare sector. We have doctors, nurses, paramedics, midwives, mental health professionals and often unrecognised behind the scene healthcare staff. We have kept it varied, because healthcare works symbiotically to provide services to the people.
I met Haydn Pasi at the Generation Share book signing in Edinburgh last year. She had seen my Instagram post about the 2020 Vision Project. At the time we had specifically focused on NHS workers but when I received her message, Annie and I realised the need to open this door.
“I work for at the Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh and my colleagues of nurses, doctors, community specialists, domestic support, volunteers are all going above and beyond to support our patients and their families either in the hospice or in the community. They are critical in supporting the NHS and we are constantly adapting our ways of working to meet these needs. Just putting this out there in case there is some way we could consider involving them too.”
We invited Marie Curie to nominate 3 staff from their 9 UK Hospices. Photoshoots have started!
Each healthcare worker is invited to answer 3 questions, ‘What challenged you the most?’, ‘What inspired you the most?’ and ‘How do you feel about being part of this nationwide tribute?’. When we started getting responses nothing could prepare us for what we read. It was very hard to select quotes for this blog. However stay tuned as we will be sharing more publicly over time, especially at exhibitions.
What challenged you the most?
No matter what we did patients continued to get worse on a mass scale that we have never seen before. This pandemic stopped the world in its tracks and things we took for granted have now became aspirations for the future generations.Dr Anoop Patel, Consultant Anaesthetist, Hertfordshire
What inspired you the most?
It was the daily commitment and bravery of my frontline colleagues around me which really inspired me. We work to the core values of teamwork, innovation, professionalism and caring and these values were demonstrated more than ever during the main Covid outbreak.Vicki Blow, Health Information Advisor for South Central Ambulance Service
How do you feel about being part of this nationwide tribute?
I feel privileged to be part of a team dedicated to helping others through thick and thin as we’re in this all together. I love my job.Jonathan Pryke, Healthcare Support Worker, Dumbarton, Scotland
So I share our vision with you dear reader. To present a legacy of inspiring portraits of UK healthcare workers, capturing their joy, strengths and vulnerabilities, the people behind the mask, for a nationwide historic, healing tribute for public recognition.
Our plan is to run a series of exhibitions after our launch. So if you’re reading this all inspired and you can help us further, please do contact me.
I want to thank everyone for their help and involvement on the 2020 Vision Project journey so far. Thank you to all the photographers taking part, you are amazing visual storytellers. To the healthcare workers who are sharing their hearts with us throughout this project, thank you all so very much for your hard work during such a very tough time. I hope this project elevates the kindness and respect all healthcare workers so greatly deserve.