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York St John University students make art for The Northumbria hospital

Monday, 20 February, 2017
York St John University students make art for The Northumbria hospital

Photography students from York St John University have produced an installation for the mortuary area at The Northumbria hospital at Cramlington.

The photographic exhibition enhances the entrance and waiting area of the area making it a more welcoming, less clinical, environment for families.

The project is a collaboration between Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Bright charity and York St John University’s newly-established BA Hons Photography course. The project is part of the trust’s long-standing healing arts programme which uses art as a therapeutic medium to improve the hospital environment for patients, visitors and staff. The artworks were donated to the hospital by York St John University’s School of Art, Design and Computer Science.

The photography exhibition – entitled ‘Soap bubble’ – has been imagined through the frailty and temporality of the life cycle of a soap bubble. 

Photography student Esther Purnell said: “The idea behind the photograph was to depict the fragility and innocence of life with the simplicity of the bubble. But also to offer a form of escapism for the people who visit the area in order for them to feel peaceful and calm.”

Dr Christina Kolaiti, senior lecturer in photography at the BA Hons Photography, York St John University, who curated this exhibition, said: “This research project aimed at contributing to a very significant yet separate area of the hospital, exploring the potential of using artworks to make a positive contribution to the overall narrative experience of this environment.

“The project posed certain ethical, cultural and also conceptual challenges, which were embraced by the students’ work in a responsible, imaginative and personal manner. This was a very rewarding collaboration for the artists involved and was also received very well both by the mortuary area staff and Northumbria Bright arts programme.”

Ian Taylor, lead biomedical scientist in histopathology at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “The photographs are stunning and the students have obviously put much thought and care into this project. I, myself, am a keen photographer and was interested to see what they would come up with – it was essential that the imagery was appropriate for this highly-sensitive area.

“They have done a great job and the exhibition has transformed the waiting area for those visiting the mortuary, making it so much more welcoming.”

Describing her photograph which features in the exhibition, student Mollie Turnbull said: “I really wanted to focus on how a person would feel, knowing that they have lost someone they love – people react differently. However, when someone is told that their friend, dad, mam, brother, sister, grandparent is passing, a wave of disbelief takes over, everything is blurred.

“My photograph represents this. The number of lights depicted, show that a person is not alone with how they feel. My intention was to have people look at this image, and feel the reassurance that everyone understands. Their emotions can hopefully be in some way represented in this image, mine certainly are.” 

Picture: Students on the photography course at York St John University who have collaborated with the trust’s Bright charity on an exhibition. Photo by Jennifer Todman, technician, York St John University.