Since the coronavirus pandemic swept the world earlier this year, photographers of all stripes have worked hard to document the havoc it has wreaked on everyday life. From lockdowns and new social distancing rules to protests and economic devastation.
One Israeli-born photographer, Micha Brikman, decided to aim his lens at the workers who have found themselves on the front line of battle. Nurses, doctors, technicians and other hospital workers became the protagonists of his captures.
During the first wave of the pandemic and over the course of a week, Brikman took hundreds of photographs inside Haifa’s Bnai Zion Medical Center. There he captured convincing moments of the situation that health workers live.
The main idea of the Israeli photographer was to honor those who fight every day against a virus of which little is known and has taken hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. “I found out that there are angels here,” Brikman says of the experience. And he adds: “I had heard of the coronavirus, but did not understand what it was about until I came here. Then I understood what it means to be a fighter; they are true combatants ”.
The results of Brikman’s efforts are currently on display at the hospital entrance in an exhibit titled “The Heroes of Bnai Zion Medical Center.” The images portray moments of joy, sadness and hardship.
“We decided to place the exhibit here at the entrance of the hospital as a way to recognize our staff for the work they do,” said Dr. Ohad Hochman, CEO of Bnai Zion.
“It is very hard work. Everyone who comes to our hospital, be they visitors or doctors, can now see the images. They are our heroes, those who care for coronavirus patients in an exceptional way, “he said.
While Brikman also captured the work of clowns trying to bring a little cheer and cleaning staff sanitizing waiting areas, the real stars of the show were undoubtedly those who directly interact with the infected. The shocking images of nurses and doctors taken before shifts, immediately after they leave the room and remove their protective gear, or about 15 minutes after the decontamination process; They are gripping and very raw portraits.
“What surprised me the most was how generous the workers are. It’s something I think about a lot, ”said the Israeli photographer. And he added: “In the coronavirus room they work 12-hour shifts. They enter with a protective suit and in the space of three hours in a row they cannot scratch themselves, go to the bathroom or do anything, ”he exclaims.
For their part, the doctors and nurses themselves were more than happy to be involved in Brikman’s project. “It was very moving,” says Dr. Anna Solopov, the doctor in charge of the hospital’s COVID-19 ward.
“The photographer really wanted people to understand how difficult it is, both mentally and physically, to work inside the coronavirus room. The outsiders, and even those who are here in the hospital and work in other departments, really have no idea what is happening in these wards, “Solopov says.
Aya Eshel, one of the nurses in the room, believes that Brikman had a positive effect on the medical staff: “We did not feel that the artist was disturbing our work while portraying the moments.”
The Brikman exhibit will remain in the hospital for several months. Some of the portraits have been selected to be featured in the upcoming Local Testimony exhibition, a prestigious annual event highlighting the work of Israeli photojournalists.