A lot of people don’t like going to see their doctor. There’s a sort of performance anxiety that starts to build when you’re asked to cough or when they tap your knee with a baby’s hammer. But anyone who has ever been to a doctor’s office knows that the nurses and support staff are some of our most valuable players; they are the ones that keep us alive long enough to get to the doctor, long enough to be artists and accountants, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, coworkers and customers.
Now, more than ever, these nurses and support staff are risking their health — and their lives — to keep us breathing. Birmingham, Alabama-based Art Meripol visited a local hospital, Grandview Medical Center, to celebrate the nurses and support staff on the floor doing their jobs.
The hospital’s marketing director, Leisha Harris, reached out to Art after hearing about him from a friend.
It was our first time working together, which was a little strange because we met with masks on and didn’t see each other’s faces for some time.
Despite the strangeness, Art dubbed this shoot a delight. The hospital is a 402-bed “tertiary care hospital” that offers diverse specialties from heart care to labor and delivery to robotic-assisted surgery. They also expanded a large area into a COVID-19 unit.
We were on the run from one floor and wing to the next fairly quickly, trying to catch the chosen staff during their work shifts.
Art’s task was to quickly step into the subjects’ space, find good backgrounds, and make them comfortable, all while getting the perfect shot in just a couple of minutes. Art and his assistant couldn’t keep the nurses and support staff away from their jobs for long, so this process was spontaneous and a little chaotic.
We were trying to shoot around five people an hour, often in completely different units of the hospital. But the shoots could not have gone smoother.
Leisha took care of the logistics by making sure the staffers were ready for their close-ups, something that Art says was “remarkable.” The photographer, of course, had to meet specific requirements during these fast-paced shoots. The images were ultimately meant for posters scattered throughout the hospital and for social media posts meant to celebrate their staff. They needed horizontal and vertical shots, masked and unmasked shots, and to avoid any patients or medical documents to keep in accordance with HEPA regulations.
The lighting in the hospital was also a little tricky. From one department to the other, the lighting changed dramatically. Art and his crew had to make use of his portable single light source and do a little work in post.
Art knew, however, that this job was one he would thrive at. While Art relishes a little chaos and spontaneity, he also had a deep appreciation for the subject matter.
My mom was a Registered Nurse, so I spent a lot of time around the hospital and hospital people. Growing up, I remember my mom washing her nursing cap in the sink and ironing it at night. At times, my siblings and I would have the job of polishing her white nursing shoes. I wanted to do my best to honor her memory.
Assistant: Andi Rice
See more of Art’s work at artmeripol.com.
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