Portland-based Jay Fram recently completed his first project with The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Jay’s work is rich with both portraiture and healthcare photography, both of which would be central to this shoot. Carolyn Farbman, the senior video producer at the CFF, loved what she saw when viewing his portfolio and reached out.
I think my healthcare portfolio makes it clear that I can work in challenging clinical environments with actual patients and providers and still come away with compelling, emotionally resonant imagery. Which ain’t easy! Hospitals can be both visually sterile and chaotic at the same time — full of beige walls and bad art, and lots of procedural red tape. You have to be flexible, calm, and ready to roll with quick changes and less-than-ideal lighting.
With three different metro areas being covered for this project, the CFF initially asked Jay to capture images in a Portland hospital. Jay, however, was willing to travel and was also given the assignment of documenting a hospital located in Denver. His client did not expect the challenges of photographing with active patient areas. They also have no control over these locations and it requires many procedural steps to gain institutional approval. Fortunately, Jay has significant experience in doing this effectively.
We needed strongly emotional images in short bursts that could be edited into short time-lapse sequences. These were part of a campaign to recruit new cystic fibrosis “research coordinators,” people who work with patients to administer regular tests and gather data. It’s an important job, and these folks develop an ongoing relationship with each of their patients, who are usually kids.
Gathered in a small room, Jay worked alongside a research coordinator, the child patient (about 6 years old), a parent, and his assistant. His process begins with setting an easy tone within an environment and situation that would usually make his subjects nervous.
When I walk into a room like this, I take time to just chat before picking up a camera. I smile, laugh a lot, and sometimes I joke around if it feels appropriate. I give kids the same level of attention too — making eye contact, shaking hands, and asking about their interests. Sometimes they’re too shy to talk, but I think they usually appreciate the respect and attention nonetheless. So that’s where I start. Then when I’m taking pictures, I respond to what’s happening and I’m not shy about leaning in close. I try to keep things fun and light, I make fun of myself, and I try to say out loud the things that kids might be wondering about. All of this while keeping an eye on technique.
Jay brings a level of technical preparation necessary to adapt quickly and capture effective images. His subjects were real clinicians doing real procedures on real child patients, making delicacy and awareness paramount. This resulted in a warm series of images that his client loved.
I think it’s because the pictures solve a difficult communication problem — they show the work these coordinators do, they show emotion from both provider and patient in an authentic way in a real-life setting, and that’s what makes them successful.
The shoot concluded, filled with many quietly powerful moments. For Jay, one particularly stood out.
The hug. This unplanned moment when Mary (the research coordinator) bent down and threw her arms wide to receive a hug from her patient. You can’t plan moments like this. So you have to be ready and pay attention because, when it happens, it’s over in 2 seconds.
See more of Jay’s work on his website.
Read more articles about Healthcare Photography.