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Powerful and personal portraits of doctors, nurses and other NHS staff who responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, captured by acclaimed photographer Rankin, have been unveiled today to celebrate the NHS birthday.
In a mark of respect and thanks to the NHS, the renowned photographer, who has previously shot the Rolling Stones, Kate Moss and the Queen, offered to take portraits of 12 people playing a vital role in the NHS response to COVID-19.
The collection will be showcased across the country at bus stops, roadside billboards and iconic pedestrian areas including the world-famous Piccadilly Lights in central London this week to mark the 72nd birthday of the NHS.
British photographer, director and cultural provocateur, Rankin, said: “As the coronavirus pandemic began to unfold, I was moved by the incredible efforts of people across the NHS and I wanted to document who they are and their role in fighting this disease. Taking a portrait is a unique and intimate experience, even with social distancing in place. Everyone had their own inspiring story which to them was just doing their job. I hope these images portray the resilience and courage they show every day in the face of real adversity.”
Those photographed include an ICU consultant, a COVID-19 critical care nurse, a midwife, a psychiatrist, a hospital porter, a COVID-19 ward cleaner, a paramedic, a GP, a pharmacist, a district nurse, a 111 call centre worker, and a Chief Information Officer. All have played a vital role in managing the response to COVID-19 and supporting people impacted by the disease.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive, said: “This has been the most challenging year in the NHS’s history, with our amazing staff providing care to almost 100,000 hospitalised Covid patients, and many more in the community. Nurses, doctors, physios, pharmacists, cleaners and countless others have pulled together, bolstered by thousands of former NHS staff who came back to help, alongside a new generation of students who stepped up. As we approach the NHS’s anniversary, these striking portraits pay tribute to all NHS staff and their extraordinary dedication. On July 5th we also want to say thank you to those from all walks of life who have played their part in helping the NHS and our communities deal with this unprecedented health emergency.”
The participants have been photographed unhidden by PPE, to reveal the people behind the masks and celebrate the individuals they are. Alongside each portrait, NHS staff have shared their own personal stories from the frontline, providing a unique and touching insight into the lives of the people who are battling this pandemic and saving lives.
Emma Kelly, a critical care nurse at the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “At first, I thought it must be the wrong Emma as I feel like I’m just doing the job I’ve been trained to do. While all of us who work for the NHS do the job because we want to care for and support our patients – it is lovely to be recognised in this way and to be able to share our stories with the world”
Dr Farzana Hussain, a GP at Project Surgery, Newham, said: “It’s difficult to put into words how privileged I feel to be able to go to work every day and make a difference to people’s lives and to help battle this global pandemic.
“Now more than ever, it’s important that we see the humanity that makes up our GP practices, community services and hospitals. Every member of staff has their own story, fears and hopes for the future. I think Rankin’s photography brings this out really well.”
Sarah Jensen, Chief Information Officer, Barts Health NHS Trust, said: “I was very surprised and flattered to be chosen – to be at the forefront of the coronavirus story was not something I was expecting. I feel privileged to be representing my profession, as working for the NHS provides such a rewarding career. I feel very strongly that we set a good example and help get messages into schools with the younger generations who are experiencing this and run grass root campaigns to recruit and show people at a young age what is possible.”
All portraits are being donated by Rankin to the NHS as an ongoing legacy for years to come. Advertising space to display the portraits has also been donated free of charge.
View the full selection of portraits and their stories.