Team leader, Photography and Audiovisual
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We do both clinical and non-clinical photography and video. The clinical side involves documenting conditions, medical treatments and surgeries – before, during and after treatment.
The non-clinical side is the public relations and promotional images for posters and annual reports.
I’ve been working here 20 years.
When I started it was all analogue film based. Now it is digital. The techniques are the same, the lenses are essentially the same. What has changed is the way the image is captured.
We used to spend thousands of dollars in film, processing and printing, now it’s digital and uploaded onto computers.
During surgery we have to be able to get in and get detailed shots, which can be extremely challenging.
We work very closely with surgeons and clinicians; sometimes we get in extremely close, centimetres away, and have to get the shot without touching the surgeon who is operating.
You need to know all the rules about being in an operating theatre – about things being sterile, and what you can and can’t touch.
You have to communicate constantly with the team so you know where everyone is and what they are doing.
There are a whole range of conditions where video or photography is the best means to document it. We photograph everything from moles and tumours to burns and wounds.
Usually the clinician explains why they want to document things; primarily it’s for teaching and for monitoring the condition, and documenting changes over time.
I don’t often get shocked by things. Some of the big burns and traumas can be pretty hard to deal with though.
To do this job well, you have to be able to relate to people and get an empathy going quickly. People are often stressed – they’ve been given a bad news diagnosis – or are in extreme pain – or both.
" The hardest clinical part of the job is photographing children who have ‘non-accidental injuries’... "
The hardest clinical part of the job is photographing children who have ‘non-accidental injuries’ – children who have been abused, smacked about, punched up, with cigarette burns or deliberately put on a hot gas ring.
It can be very distressing. You can dehumanise to a certain extent – you are looking at things through a frame – but when that child is in the room going off, it’s pretty upsetting.
We do our job; we have to be very neutral taking photos because it needs to be a true and accurate record.
It’s a ‘means to an end’ to ensure a safer outcome for the child, if the offender is arrested and the case goes before the courts.
Documenting the separation of the conjoined twins in 2004 was a career highlight. We were involved in planning meetings, worked closely with clinicians about video and photography.
The separation took 22 hours and we worked through it all, taking clinical photos and general photos of the team, and we also videoed it. We provided audiovisual support too: there was a live camera feeding through to the tea room so the next surgical team that could see what was going on.
I can’t think of anything where the full gamut of our skills were used in such an intense way. To be involved in something like that, as successful as the outcome was, doesn’t get any better.
We take our relationship with staff and patients seriously, and confidentiality and privacy are cornerstones of our trade. The twins were known about from before they were born, but no one in the media knew about it until two days after they were separated.
By that time hundreds of people knew in this ‘village on the hill’, but no one let slip.
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