Ann Kay was an inpatient at St Michael’s Hospice for 12 weeks, during which time she created this collection of photographs.
The idea for the project came from a conversation with Hospice Communications Manager, Chris Smart. Both were graduates of the Documentary Photography course at the University of South Wales in Newport.
While on the course, Ann had learned that great photographs were taken by photographers who had an insight into the subjects they are documenting. Ann wanted to show that people brought more than just their professional lives into her Hospice room. Ann’s conversations with staff were about more than her health; they were about grandchildren, wedding plans, music and even honey.
Ann wanted to show the humanity behind the uniforms worn by Hospice staff. After an informal chat, Ann asked each of her subjects to choose a prop to be photographed with that was significant in their lives.
Ann said, ‘I don’t know what I would have done without this project, it helped me to feel brighter in myself. Photography is something that I enjoy and working on the project kept me busy. Creating these photographs has been about living every moment of my life. I hope that one day these pictures will be in an exhibition.’
The photographs were all taken during Ann’s stay, and although Chris was needed to press the button, Ann directed the shoot. She gave instructions about how to fold blankets for the best visual effect, and she used her wit to engage with her subjects. As the shoot progressed, Chris would show Ann the photos: she would ask for alterations until she approved the shot. Chris then printed out an A3-sized picture and displayed it in Ann’s room. The images created a buzz on the ward, among Ann’s guests and members of staff. The portraits stimulated new conversations between a wide variety of people about the big and small things in life. The captions that accompany the pictures are Ann’s words.
Ann died on 28th December 2015 after spending 12 weeks at St Michael’s. Ann’s family hope her photographs will stimulate more conversations about the work of St Michael’s staff who give people the chance to live every moment of life.
Lorna brings laughter into the room. She works hard and with real compassion and has fun, too. She is most proud of her son. He’s an award-winning shepherd, and has achieved all this at the age of sixteen.
Jade’s Madonna-like face and slender figure made her an exceptional bride the week after this photograph was taken. She has so much depth to her personality. She works very hard for the Hospice.
I imagine Tony talks as gently to his bees as he does to his patients. He brings a feeling of milk and honey into the room. He knows that being a doctor is not just about what’s written in the medical books. He knows it’s about understanding that patients need to be treated with respect and dignity.
Tash is like Florence Nightingale, dedicated to looking after her patients. When she’s not on duty, she puts on her leather boots and becomes an Iron Maiden. She is the proud owner of one of Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain’s drumsticks, which she caught in a scrum.
Parti’s son was rescued by the Air Ambulance Service after a road traffic accident. Working at St Michael’s helps her live with that memory and enables her to give something back to humanity. She’s hilarious but underneath it all she is dedicated to helping the Hospice survive and prosper.
Helen has been a constant presence in the room and takes great care about prescribing the right medication. She will talk to me about running, and her children, but only when I ask and I appreciate that.
Mary helps people overcome the problems they face when they or someone they love are diagnosed with a terminal illness. She’s gently relentless to ensure everyone is supported in the right way. Mary’s other passion is organising the Three Choirs Fringe Festival.
Margaret brings light into the room. She works quietly and with great compassion. We are very different, but she connected with me in the same way I connected with her. She is a shining example of how a grandmother can be.
Nikki comes and asks very kindly what I want to eat. I haven’t got an appetite for anything, but she keeps coming, and she keeps asking. I appreciate her determination to deliver the highest quality of care.
Rachel is an extremely gentle person. Her daughter works here too, she is as gentle as her mother. Rachel’s face is a symbol of goodness. She gets a lot of enjoyment from knowing how much people benefit from the good food she prepares.
Both Sam and Collette have bright open faces. They bring their youthfulness to the work they do. They wanted to come and play their instruments and I was very happy to listen. So we all played our parts. It was so interesting to hear hymns played in a completely different way.
Keith loves to fix things. While he was unblocking the sink, I saw that he has a real rapport with Parti. It’s good to watch. Together they reveal something more about the Hospice and the relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.
Sue has told me about a letter she received from a patient’s husband. He thanked her for all she had done in lifting the mood when his wife was at St Michael’s.