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Faces of the frontline against COVID-19, through the lens of a trainee medic

Matthew ThompsonIt was while working on a COVID-19 ward in early 2020 that the idea of a photography project documenting the NHS workers labouring during the pandemic came to Warwick Medical School student Matthew Thompson. While teaching was suspended in the early days of the pandemic, Matthew joined a number of University of Warwick students assisting local hospitals in clinical support work.

What he experienced there inspired him to use his skills to give the people he worked with something they could cherish and remind them of the invaluable work they were doing in such stressful and worrying times. As a long-time professional photographer, he found a way to do that.

The project quickly grew from Matthew’s aim of 10-20 people to photograph. Determined to photograph staff in their ‘natural habitat’, to spotlight the roles that are often overlooked in hospitals, he soon found that it was impossible to do them all justice.

The result of the project is an online gallery called Humans of the Pandemic (www.matthewthompson.co.uk/humans-of-the-pandemic) featuring portrait photographs of 67 NHS staff at George Eliot Hospital with their personal stories of the pandemic. The hospital also plans to hang a selection of the portraits throughout its buildings.

Matthew said "Meeting and photographing 67 staff across George Eliot hospital was a humbling, insightful and unforgettable experience. What started as sharing my passion with ward staff I was assisting during a difficult time, became an endeavour to recognise as many NHS staff affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as possible.

I tried to shine a light on the vast range of roles in a district general hospital, in their places of work, which rarely see the spotlight. As a photographer, it was a privilege to create. As a medical student, it was the best education in how a hospital operates and who I will work alongside in future."

Dr Catherine Free, Medical Director at George Eliot Hospital, said: “We welcomed Matt into the hospital and are really grateful for his professional support during the Covid pandemic. His and his colleagues’ efforts helped us get through a very challenging time. His portraits capture the unity, hard work and dedication of all our staff and act as a tribute to their efforts. I’m proud to work with all of them.”

Kate Owen, Director of Medical Studies at Warwick Medical School said, “One of the most rewarding aspects of working with graduate entry medical students is discovering the additional skills they bring with them from their previous lives. When they manage to combine these skills with medicine, as Matt has done, we see some truly inspiring results.”

Here are a few examples of his work from the project. View images of all 67 participants at http://www.matthewthompson.co.uk/humans-of-the-pandemic