Photographic exhibition featuring healthcare heroes opens to an "overwhelming" response

Identical twins Samar Aweis (left) and Samah Aweis, both junior doctors at Royal Bournemouth Hospital. Picture: Andy Scaysbrook.

By Staff Reporter [email protected]

Published: November 13, 2020 | Updated: 13th November 2020

A photographic exhibition revealing – and celebrating – the faces of health workers fighting the battle against Covid-19 in Dorset has opened to an “overwhelming” response.

Unmasked is a project by photographer Andy Scaysbrook, journalist Emma Pittard and designer John Nesbitt, pictured left.

As first reported on Dorset Biz News, it was inspired by the fact that to fight an invisible enemy, healthcare heroes had to make themselves invisible behind masks, gowns and gloves.

At the heart of the project is a series of portraits by Andy, capturing faces on the frontline in hospitals and medical centres across Dorset.

Together with Emma and John, he shone a light on many of the men and women behind the masks.

The exhibition, at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester, is just a sample of their work achieved during lockdown.

It was carried out while respecting social distancing guidelines and keeping travel from their Dorset homes to a minimum.

The portraits are accompanied by text – often very moving – featuring quotes from staff featured in the images.

While the hospital is not open to visitors in the usual way, the exhibition can be seen online here.

A book containing more photographs and full stories is in production, to raise funds for local NHS charities and to serve as a permanent record of these times.

It is being funded by NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group.

Wagner Pontara, Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

Suzy Rushbrook, Arts in Hospital Advisor at Dorset County Hospital, said the initial response to the photographic exhibition from staff had been “quite overwhelming”.

Comments received included:

  • “I love this display so much. Took the time to read each one yesterday and people stopped to tell me they’d done the same and pointed out their friends and favourite pictures.”
  • “Love that it brings us closer together.”
  • “Such a brilliant display, full of inspiring people. We love it.”
  • “These pictures are just wonderful. I love looking at them as I’m walking to and from my department. They really make me smile.”

Suzy said: “Arts in Hospital has been proud to work with Andy, Emma and John on this project and were delighted when they contacted us in the middle of lockdown”.

Nina Henderson, South West Ambulance Service.

“Art has an enormous impact on health and wellbeing and this is something people are becoming increasingly aware of, making collaborative projects like this invaluable.

“The hope is that this project will serve as an exercise in wellbeing and a morale booster for staff working all over the Dorset health sector.

“To show that their stories are being told and that people are listening, that they are truly appreciated and that this extraordinary time is being recorded.”

Andy was a former photographer with the Bournemouth Daily Echo before going freelance in 2001.

He said the initial idea for ‘Unmasked’ had come from talking to friends who were working for the NHS.

Andy said: “It’s the way that the project has been so well received that means the most to all of us.

“It took nine months to complete, working under the most trying of circumstances.

“It is fitting that the exhibition’s first showing is to NHS staff and their reaction to it has been fantastic.

“We are all very humbled by it.”

Megan Read and team, Grassington House residential care home, Dorchester.

  • Arts in Hospital is a charitable creative organisation based at Dorset County Hospital.

It aims to enhance the healing environment for patients, visitors and staff through visual art and music.

Donations are gratefully received and can be used to commission and purchase new artwork to brighten up the hospital or to fund new participatory projects with professional artists and musicians.

If you can help, please contact [email protected]

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