This project – “Nature of Care” – started with a dream. No figurative dream hoping for a better world, but a lively, unusual variety of dreams in the middle of the night.
When British photographer Liz Hingley broke sleep during the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020, she dreamed that nurses and doctors poured out of London’s major hospitals, all in masks and protective clothing, and started hugging trees – hugging them .
“They were socially distant and hugged their tree with their hazmat suits or face masks,” Hingley told World Host Marco Werman.
Hingley couldn’t get the images from her dream of nature out of her head. She described the images in her dream as visceral. The next morning she felt she had to do something about it.
“When I woke up I thought I had to take this picture,” said Hingley. “And then after a cup of coffee I obviously realized that I probably couldn’t take this picture. But then I translated it into this project that I’ve been doing for almost 10 months now.”
Below, Hingley talks to The World about her photography project and how it offers tired health care providers a new perspective on life.
Marco Werman: So you know a lot about photography and the world that can open up to people. Then what did you want to do with health care providers, two of London’s largest hospitals, after you had that dream?
Liz Hingley: I’m really lucky to live next to a place called Hampstead Heath, a huge green space given to the City of London – the people of the City of London – 150 years ago. And during that time, I did my hour-long lockdown exercise and went for a walk on the heather. I was so aware of what a healing resource this place was for me and for so many people at this really confusing time. And there’s an area in the heather that has two of London’s largest hospitals on either side of the city. I just called her coldly and said, can I do some photo hikes on the heath for anything? And wonderful, both hospitals responded positively. And I had no idea what the shot was going to be like, but it was kind of overwhelming.
To be very clear, you gave them the exercise and then they went out with their cameras and started taking pictures.
Yes, I managed to convince Canon to sponsor me because I was interested in them being free. And that people should also have the ability to learn a little photography, but also to take some really breathtaking pictures. The aim of the project was to really keep people away from work and the crisis conditions in the hospital. And allow them to connect with the local nature that was right on their doorstep and develop a practice where photography may be seen more deeply and, in a sense, only reconnect during lunch breaks and short periods of time. I didn’t call it therapy. One thing I noticed when I first contacted the hospitals was that the chief of staff at Whittington Hospital in London said that staff, especially ICUs – those who are really on the front lines of the ICU – really rarely seek help . But what they are always looking for and responding to is the opportunity to relax. So I think it is very difficult for many people to put this experience into words and communicate with others who have no idea what the environment is like. But being outside and going and being physically constructive and doing something with your body and producing something at the same time can feel pretty constructive in a way of processing and expression without putting things into words.
What impressed you about her photos and her approach and what tells us all about her life at the moment?
People really saw light. I know that sounds very simple, you know, when you think about photography, but it was very much about light and dark and shadows and shadows and lots of photos of trails and lookups, people looking up in general. And I encouraged that too because my vision is to alternatively install the images everywhere in the hospitals they work in and to attract people’s eyes. Since I think this can be a very uplifting feeling, especially when we are generally exhausted or psychologically stressed, we tend not to look up enough.
I’m looking at some of the photos right now – one of several hands holding some acorns and that’s in the light. But everything around him is dark. Are you looking for some kind of hope?
Hope and a pause, I think – a pause, a window into something else. The clinical environment is so extreme. And people talked about how the sounds and lights follow them when they walk. And they permeate their dreams and these spaces they go into. I mean, they are so, so energetic, these environments and so far from the natural world. Many people sought this break and reconnected with a different light, a different movement and a different pace outside.
I would assume that many of these healthcare workers could seek advice, maybe they have some traditional form of talk therapy to deal with their fears and concerns. Was a photo walk a more attractive alternative? And why do you think is that so?
I compare it to my own experience. I mean I know that. So that’s why I tried to offer it to people because I got into photography as a teenager, dealing with my own teenage anxiety, and actually after my mother’s death. And photography was just an escape and a way to get out and meet people and things and see deeply how I … I think I thought to be able to offer this to people I was also aware of as death and experiencing illness on this really extreme level.
I’m curious what do you think of all the pictures we’ve seen over the past year? Portraying care providers as overwhelmed – their masks, engraved on their faces, are almost like soldiers in combat. What do you think of such pictures?
I think there are all kinds of photography and roles photography has. And to show and document this, I think the extremes of this era, just like war photography plays a role, are important. But I think as a society we now need to think about what we have learned and how we have so far separated our health and health facilities from nature and our understanding of it. In a way, I hope this project can think about and get a feel for the importance of taking care of nature and healing it together and what it offers us for free.
This article originally appeared on The World. Follow them on Twitter.