The what, why and how of health and development

Hospital objects and human emotions: exploring patient identity with art

Downstairs at the William Morris Gallery on Forest Road, Walthamstow, a small but captivating set of photographs are displayed in a room in between the cafe and the entrance hall.

The photography exhibition is called ‘Person as Patient’ and features portraits – head and shoulders shots – of patients taken by hospital artist in residence Emma Banard. In these images, Banard explores the relationship between a patient being observed as a medical subject and as a human being. The result is a peculiar blend of hospital objects and human expression. Over laying on top of the face of one young woman is what looks like an embroidery of veins, blue strings of fabric placing the tubes that normally sit under the skins above the surface. Another holds a section of an x-ray in-front of their face, making their own body appear foreign, a familiar feeling for anyone who had spent hours, days or weeks sitting in a hospital bed.

This feeling of de-personalisation and loss of identity is a theme Banard is exploring as part of a larger project; the small exhibition at the WMG shows just a snippet of this work. Describing some of the positive benefits of this project, Banard explains that helping patients to visualise their experiences helps give them back their identity and can ‘reveal unseen thoughts and emotions of which a consultant may be unaware’. You can read more about this work here.

The exhibition is on until 22 September 2013 and is absolutely free, along with the rest of the gallery. The majority of exhibits are dedicated to the life of William Morris, who lived in the house in Walthamstow when he was young. For a Victorian who is remembered best for interior design and fabric patterns, Morris’ life was an interesting blend of socialism, writing, business and art. But I won’t spoil it for anyone interested – pay a visit to find out for yourself and make sure you pop your head in to see the more modern but equally interesting patient portrait exhibit.


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