Friday, March 17, 2006

To shoot or not to shoot


I was raised to believe that cameras are not supposed to be brought into certain places. Synagogues, hospitals and homes whose families recently lost a loved one are all places where cameras have traditionally been unwelcome.

I've kept my own camera out of hospitals out of respect for this unwritten rule. But as we walked into the hospital last week to see my Dad, I was struck by how deeply I wanted to somehow record that particular time and place.

But I didn't want to tick anyone off. So blatantly shooting flash pictures around the nurses' station was a non-starter. A subtle approach - honed, no doubt by years of vegetable-aisle shooting at the local grocery store - was more in order. A bit of humor went a long way toward getting everyone around me comfortable with the fact that the camera had come out.

In the end, I quietly shot close-in details of things I thought would resonate with anyone who's spent any amount of time in one of these places. I tried to capture the dim light, the curious mixture of sadness and hope that defines these places.

Your turn: What would you record if you could bring a camera into a hospital? Why?

46 comments:

used*to*be*me* said...

tubes, buttons and contraptions that make up the background of what goes on inside.

Linda said...

Well, having had 2 babies in a hospital, there were LOTS of pictures taken - but I was blessed with a husband who felt it inappropriate to take pictures of my belly cut open, baby covered in birth stuff, etc. He wanted memories of what they looked like after they were born.

I love the shot you took of the IV bag. It speaks volumes (no pun intended). I think that your idea is perfect - things that resonate with being in the hospital: the IV, the machines, the bed rails (remotes included)...the bed trays, the basins, cups, dinner trays...all things that are so institutional, yet hold individual meaning to us all. (the food trays for me were the best - we had GOOD food at my hospitals!)

I'd love to see more of those pictures.

Sue said...

This is a tough one for me as I come from a good ole french family that actually takes pictures at funerals and wakes so......I guess it would depend on who was in the hospital and why they were there. I would focus on the little things that might bring the patient joy if they are ill.
Here from Michele

The Gnat's Trumpet said...

Well I have to join Linda on this one. When we had our children there were tons of pictures taken to commemorate the happy occasion (no really your point though because usually a trip to the hospital is not such a happy time). One of the pictures was taken by my mother and it was of the newborn in the foreground, but my mother forgot to focus on what was happening in the background. It was an especially inappropriate angle of my wife having stitches put in a certain area.

Prego said...

This is a no-brainer, but, like Linda and the Gnat, I snapped away like Herb Ritts when my boys came out of the chute. To this day I regret that I actually turned off the video camera at my wife's behest. Watching her discomfort prior to poppin' the turkeys out of the oven would have high entertainment value later on, and we could make the kids watch it for guilt purposes if they ever go astray.

Other than that, you're right. There's no real photo-ops in a hospital.

here via michele today, carmi.

Ms Mac said...

I've been very lucky in that the hospitals I've been in have been very caring and positive places. I would have to somehow capture the dedication of the nurses and doctors who looked after me.

Except in one Melbourne hospital which I would never return to unless I was staying in the morgue. In that place, if I could capture the bad work ethic and show the staff, from the receptionist to hospital admin, how bad it is for patients there I would do it in a heartbeat.

Susie said...

Carmi - thanks for visiting my site. Ironic that your post should be about hospitals...I was just at Vancouver General Hospital last night - visiting a dear friend who was in for surgery. Not sure if I'd be bringing my camera in...spring-bright flowers seemed to be the best thing on the first day post-op....

Karen said...

Yeah, no kidding. I haven't been in a hospital all that often, but I'm usually staring at things like this IV bag in an effort not to feel awkward or something like that. I think this is such a cool photo.

Here via Michele's, but it's a regular stop!

Carl V. said...

Hi Carmi. Good for you, breaking traditons and all...especially for something that is as important as your father. I like the picture of the IV bag...it really does give a stark, melancholy look to it.

I'd be afraid of what I may take pics of if I took a camera into a hospital. Probably something grizzly and untoward! ;)

utenzi said...

Michele sent me to see you, Carmi.

Hospitals, huh? I spend a lot of time in them and have actually taken a good many pictures in them--but usually of Western gels. Those light boxes they use for viewing X-rays are excellent for imaging gels also.

I guess if I were to take pictures that weren't work related then I'd go after floor level scenes. The wheels of a gurney as it goes by, or the shoes of a nurse as s/he walks into a room. And the way a long hall looks from floor level as the ebb and flow of traffic moves about.

Lazy Daisy said...

I'm nurse and I have seen people take pictures of casts, new babies, equipment (such as the Iv tubing) the person if they had been in an accident with bruising, some the nursing personal (if they had a special connection). Rule of thumb you can't take pictures of any patient because of the privacy act.

rashbre said...

Tough one. I guess the smiles of people getting well.
Here via Michele's today
rashbre

d.challener roe said...

Hello, Michelle sent me.

Maybe the rule can be modifed to allow for pictures that don't include the people, and hence don't intrude on their privacy.

Kimmy said...

My mom recently had surgery in a brand new hospital. It was more like a 5 star hotel. I was taking pictures left and right. The artwork. The furniture. The glass walls. The walls of quotes. Starbucks. Gourmet cafeteria. The hospital room with high speed internet access, stocked mini fridge, colored linens, wood floor, flat screen tv... I was going crazy. I need to post them someday.

Hello from Michele!

Theo said...

eyes. surely nothng speaks to me of these times of fear and pain when the apparent, but unreal secure facade of our lives is challanged as clearly as people's eyes.

Michele sent me, again.

Plumkrazzee said...

I'd take pictures of the life behind the scenes. The janitor, the billing clerk, the vending machine stocker.....having spent many, many days and nights in hospitals, I came to notice these things as much as the doctors roaming the halls. They seemed just as important, if not more-so.

Mark said...

I would almost not like to take pics in a hospital. I don't klike hospitals. In over 47 years I have spent exactly three nights in one, less the time I was born. Two were when I was a baby, the third when I lost a digit at age 28. I have an deep loathing of hospitals.

On the other hand, I just spent a weekend in Orange County at a bat Mitzvah and saw many photos taken of the young lady and her family in the synagogue proper. I don't think it is out of line to do so at all.

utenzi said...

Just got home from work and saw your message via Michele's Blog, Carmi. Funny! I blog a lot at work when I'm waiting for incubations to end. But I doubt I'd want my boss to see what I'm doing so I completely understand!

Suzanne said...

you know...I don't know? Maybe the facial expressions of people. Sometimes it tells a whole story in one picture. I guess that depends on the reason they are in the hospital.
Hope your Dad is ok?

T. said...

Nice, a fellow canuck journalist. Glad to see you putting your talent to use. Michele sent me.

My son spent month upon month in the hospital and I documented every gory moment. I found as long as some respect and common sense was shown, no one had a problem with it.

meeta said...

Michele Sent me :)

Seeing how going to hospitals felt very regular being the child of a doctor,I don't know.
The one thing I have always loved in hospitals is watching nurses hold newborns, and watching children who may not make it against all odds...actually make it.
Those would be my pictures...

Im Chele In [dot] LA said...

I am terrible I take pictures everywhere..
my camera is an extension of my arm

srp said...

Part of my job is taking pictures in a hospital on occasion, but we won't talk about that. The last time I had a camera in the hospital it was in the lab, I was getting ready to leave the hospital there for the last time and move to another state. So I took lots of pictures of the people I worked with for fifteen years, the people that are the heart and soul of the lab.

Here from Michele.

Jenn said...

Because my son who was ten months old died in a hospital, it would be hard to say. Very much of what goes on there is intangible. Feelings, hurt, anxiety, anger, sometimes happiness when all is discovered well...
I would focus on faces. Just faces. The faces of the patients, babies to adults. The faces of the families, I'm sure there is a ton of potential there.

He was in the hospital for four months before he passed away. He was a fighter and he was more than strong. -- When I think back to that time, almost three years ago now, it still hurts very much. But in reading your entry, and asking myself that question, brought up many emotions again. It doesn't take much. However, there is a good and bad side to almost everything. The silver lining has been hard to see but I know it's there. It's there.

---If you had taken a picture of my face, you would have seen numbness, terror, prayerful intense facial expressions. You would have seen through that camera lense, quiet. I know a camera can capture quiet. I was quietly waiting what maybe both my husband and I were petrified might happen.

I have browsed through the first 'page' of your site-I think you are talented with the camera. I know all too well about the sighs of a spouse. :) They are amused and secretely supportive.
It's a good thing.

Jenn

Ivy said...

When I had my youngest. She was 6 weeks premature.. And I was unable to see her for 3 days. The only way I was able to see her was for a family member to take the camera in and take pictures of her in the NICU. (I was unable to get out of the bed for 3 days).. The photos said it all. She had a ton of tubes and wires coming out of her. It really said what words could not..


Michele sent me!

margalit said...

The only time I've brought a camera into the hospital was when my kids were born, and even then it seemed kind of weird. I guess it's better than videotaping my cootchie, but still...

Since I spend so much time in the hospital either at doctor's apprts or inpatient admittance, I think the thing that interests me the most are the brand new babies in the car seats waiting for daddy to bring the car around. The moms always look completely shell shocked. Every time I see some of those new moms I think that would make a great coffee table book. It's the first REAL moment of being the parent of a new baby.

Hope your dad is doing OK

Here from Ms Michele.

margalit said...

Mark,

Regarding your comment about cameras in a synagogue, unless the synagogue is exceptionally reform, camera are absolutely NOT allowed. They are not allowed for a couple of reasons, one is that a flash would be considered fire, the other that the camera uses electricity (also fire), even with a battery. Taking photos during a bnai mitzvah is considered VERY rude in most synagogues and you would be spoken to the second that camera came out. Ditto for phones and any other battery applicances. And cigarettes as well.

Plumkrazzee said...

I would say that whether it was allowed or not....wouldn't common sense tell you that you shouldn't be doing those things? Well, I guess for alot of people common sense isn't exactly one of their stronger traits......

Sandy said...

I'm with Linda. Here I sit two kids and a lot of photographs later. And like Linda, no actual "birth" photos.

The lighting, by the way, in your IV photo tells such a story. Thanks for sharing it.

Goodbye Mes Amis said...

lines in people's faces, worry in people's eyes, crinkles in people's clothes... that is if I was brave enough.

Mark said...

Margalit and Plumkrazee:

I did not say that the photos were being taken during the service. That would indeed be rude. I would never think to do such a thing.

I was merely responding to Carmis comment about cameras in a Synagogue in general.

The photos were beimng taken by a professional pohotographer, not guests.

I am well aware of the laws regarding the keeping of Shabbos. I am also Jewish. It was a reform synagogue. Horror of horrors, there was a female rabbi as well. What is this world coming too? We don't all ascribe to the strict observance of the orthodoxy. That is what, to me, makes Judaism so intriguing. The ability to work many ways for many different people, but toward a common end.

The cigarette comment baffles me, as I didn't mention smoking. For that matter, setting your clothes on fire during a b'nai mitzvah would be frowned upon as well, I guess? Just a hunch. But then, as Plumkrazee so judgementally points out, common sense isn't common is it? Neither is common courtesy in the blogosphere, unfortunately.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I'm not sure I would take any photo's. Hospitals hold too much pain for me and it's hard enough to just be there...But, I would LOVE to see more of the photo's you took though, because you have such a unique eye and always capture such a lot of emotion in your photographs.

Viamarie said...

The hospital I manage allows photo taking for as long as they ask permission. We have to respect the privacy of our patients.

I took shots of my newborn grandson and his mom as soon as he was brought to her for his initial breast feeding.

ms ralph said...

I don't know that I would want to. But I've come to you today through michele's meetn'greet. Hi!

barbie2be said...

i kind of wish i had pictures of my dad from when he was in the hospital before he died. :(

keda said...

great picture. as everyone with kids says we have a different perspective... b ut if i ignore that experience the things that i remember most and find most evocative to photograph would be those ridiculous and way too Small green kidney shaped bowls they give you if you feel nauseous, and calves and slippers below the bottom of green backwards robes we are made to wear, and the various levers etc on the sides of the beds. this shot kinda says it all though. difficult times. thank goodness noone invented effective smellovision photography....

Laura said...

Good question, this is such a personal decision too. I agree with Linda, the IV bag does tell the story, in many ways.

When my Dad was in the hospital, we took pictures of the experience, but I deleted some of the pictures later. it's just a matter of personal decision. Expressions on the nurses faces can tell the story also.

I got a kick out of the rest of the photos on your site. I'm new here, nice to "meet" you!

Mitey Mite said...

I've had pictures of my kids and grandkids in the hospital. Those are happy ones. I think about the people I know who have died in a hospital and I wonder if I should have taken pictures. Better to remember them in full health, or better to remember them as they were the last time I saw them? I still don't know.

Here via Michele's today.

colleen said...

Carmi, I'm so glad I came over for this question today and I feel for you having your dad in the hospital.

I'm like you, I am compelled to record things. When my dad was in the hospital this past November, I couldn't bear to take a photo of my dad in the condition he was in, but I took one of my hand in his. His being all connected to tubes and all, and he was not aware of me much. It turned out to be the last photo I have of him and it means a lot to me.

Valbee said...

Since most of my hospital visits begin in the ER, if I could photograph anything, it would be the people in the waiting room. Between those waiting to be seen, and those waiting for others who are being seen, it's an interesting mix of emotions.

kenju said...

I think I might record the faces of the nurses and docs and anyone else who was a comfort to me, so that I could remember them after the fact.

Shane said...

a pensive post. the hospital has always been a solemn place for me and one of fear and dread.

I know a lot of hope and miracles come forth from the hospital too - still a very heavy place and one I like to avoid at all costs.

atpanda said...

Oh man, how could you not look at the bedpans? And the jello. But really the bedpans. Do people actually use those? And who has to clean them???

The Torch Singer said...

there is nothing about a hospital that I would want to photograph. I only have sad memories...So I wouldn't want to have a picture to look at as a reminder of the sadness..

michele sent me....

Shelli said...

I am still thinking about your post about cameras in the hospital. I have pictures of my dad just before he died and about 4 weeks before he died. Your post got me thinking about why we took those pictures of him in the hospital and especially the ones just before he died. I am thinking about doing a post about it because of your questions. I would talk about the progression of the disease and dealing with the losing of someone you love. I would just link to the pictures because some people may find them disturbing. But for me, I need to look at them from time to time so that I can remember why we had to let him go.

Wheelson said...

My wife was in the ICU for three weeks once. It's three weeks I'll never forget and those three weeks changed our lives forever and continue to affect us. I have only 1 picture while she was in the hospital and that was after she was out of the ICU. As important of an event that it was, I now really wish I'd recorded an image of it.

I did however record some audio. Talking about the experience while still in the hospital provided us with descriptive images that are just as good, although different, from images taken with a camera.