I wrote in a previous post about how moving it is to think of images I have taken acquiring a life of their own when they leave my hands. I often have little idea where a picture I have sold ends up – perhaps on the living room wall of the person who bought it, perhaps half way round the world in the home of a relative, or maybe in an office where many different people glance at it, each taking something different from it.
A few months ago I was asked to provide some pictures for the in-patient unit at the Isabel Hospice in Welwyn. The unit means a lot to me – they cared for my partner’s father during his final days, making him as comfortable and safe in those last hours as he could be, and allowing us to say goodbye to him in a calm, restful and dignified way. Frankly, I felt honoured to be asked to use my photographs in such a special environment.
The project used some images captured in the grounds of the hospice itself – including details from their beautiful courtyard garden and some macro shots of the many flowers and plants that grow there. These were supplemented with other shots taken elsewhere, including a landscape from Yorkshire where my partner’s father had lived for most of his last 40 years or so.
Over the past six weeks or so, the pictures have been framed and hung in various places around the unit – mostly in the corridors, with some by the nurses station and in the patients’ and relatives’ lounge. And today, the hospice staff were kind enough to invite me, my partner and my mother to go and see them in situ.
The experience was a positive and very emotional one – and a rare opportunity for me to see my work in its final destination. It also meant a great deal to me to hear of some of the positive reactions to my work from relatives and also from staff.
And it is these staff, of course, who make the unit the special place that it is. The warm and safe atmosphere is not about the building or the decor, but about the team of people who work together in common cause to deliver such a high standard of care, often in very difficult circumstances. I like to think I am a reasonably self-aware person, and I know for a fact that I have nothing like what it takes to be a doctor, nurse or care-worker – what these people achieve is truly remarkable.
But as I came away from Welwyn this evening, I felt that perhaps in my own way I’d contributed something which made a small difference. And if that’s true, then I’m honoured to think of my work hanging there on the walls of the unit, playing its own little part in shaping such an important space.