Photographs captured by two talented members of Barts Health will feature in Whitechapel Gallery’s ‘First Thursdays’ online exhibition this Thursday (1 April).
Tania Olive Collyer, a paediatric nurse, and Piotr Peksa, a security officer, both took photographs of staff working during the height of the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic at The Royal London Hospital. Their photos are being showcased by the hospital’s local gallery in Whitechapel in a monthly online event which brings together the work from galleries across east London.
Both Tania and Peter worked in the hospital during the pandemic and took photos during their free time.
One month before the pandemic Tania had left her role as a paediatric emergency nurse in London, to live in Amritapuri, an Ashram in India. After seeing events unravel on the news, Tania returned to The Royal London Hospital last March and worked as a nurse on the purpose-built critical care units on 14th and 15th floors, named The Queen Elizabeth Unit.
Speaking about her time here, Tania said: “The Royal London Hospital is unique, in that the 14th and 15th floors were empty until the pandemic; the wards were purposely opened to treat patients critically ill with Covid-19.
Every shift I would walk onto the unit and be blown away by my surroundings, rows of unconscious patients, dependent on us to keep them alive. I wanted to capture this moment in time by using my photography skills.
Taking photos has been cathartic for me. To be there as an observer was such a different experience. To witness staff caring for the patient’s is such a beautiful thing to see; to watch them holding their hands and washing their hair. It’s the small things.”
Working full time as a security officer at The Royal London Hospital, Pitor known as Peter Pexington is also an exceptionally talented amateur photographer and video film maker. The photographs were taken for a project Peter had wanted to undertake for a while, as a gift to the frontline heroes to showcase how hard they have worked lately.
Speaking about the project, Peter said: “I had this project of A&E Heroes portrait photography in my mind for a couple of months already, and I finally said to myself I have to go for it.
So many high-minded people, companies, and restaurants delivered free food to NHS employees during the difficult time of the Covid-19 pandemic. I also decided to deliver to those heroes something from me. This is how my portrait photography project was created.
The photography project was a very good experience for me, and I hope it was a good experience for all of the nurses, doctors, porters, domestic, receptionists, security and paramedics - everyone who dedicated their lives to helping us.
I just want to say big thank you for your hard work.”