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Lockdown portraits by Cambridge photographer capture key worker heroes

A Cambridge photographer was commissioned to create a portfolio of portraits and interviews of local key workers during the lockdown to capture their feelings about this moment in history.

Regina Ray, who takes portraits but is also a key worker who works part-time at Addenbrooke’s Hospital as a medical photographer, wanted to capture the thoughts and feelings of key workers in the pandemic.

She was given Arts Council funding to create the virtual exhibition which she has called Chapter in Our Lives.

Veronique, photographed by Regina Ray (39346764)
Veronique, photographed by Regina Ray (39346764)

She says: “I’m a key worker as I had to continue my job at the hospital where We have a clinical studio with patients with long term conditions that have to be monitored over time. It’s particularly important in dermatology, plastic surgery and especially when it comes to oncology. I also photograph eye clinics and histopathology specimens.

“At the start of lockdown there was this image of health workers as heroes who wear a cape and so on, so I decided to have my own inquiry into the matter and see whether they felt the same way. I also happened to go to one of those supermarket opening times for NHS workers and I was given flowers and strongly experienced the imposter syndrome. So wanted to know whether other people felt the same, did they really feel like heroes or were they just going about their job as usual?

“The attitude in all of my interviewees was exactly that - we are just doing our jobs. It led me to think it's not the person that chooses the profession but the profession that chooses the person, because they all felt this way. None of them considered themselves heroes.”

Regina interviewed and photographed a wide range of subjects, from people working on Covid wards to care assistants in residential homes, to a vicar and a teacher.

She says: “One of my interviews was with as frontline worker who said she knew when she was becoming a doctor that this could happen, that there was a chance she would contract diseases at work and this still didn't make her feel like a hero or that she was doing anything extra or sacrificing herself like a soldier in a war. It was just her job and she has chosen it.”

Regina worked with CPP MarketPlace as part of the Creative Conversations In Isolation commissions project. MarketPlace is part of the Creative People and Places programme, initiated and funded by Arts Council England through the National Lottery.

Regina says: “I just wanted to know how they felt in that particular situation, first having to go out while other people are being safe while working from home and not exposing their families to risk.

“My very first interview was the one that made me realise I don't have all the answers. I asked her if she was proud of being a key worker because ‘proud’ was a word that was being used a lot by the media. She said yes I am, because my kids don't fully realise what is going on at the moment but one day they will learn about it at school and then they are going to remember I was part of it. So I'm very proud to give my own small contribution. That was the first thing that gave me a totally different perspective. I’ve met some wonderful people through this project and learned a lot.”

Regina has now created a virtual exhibition of the ten keyworkers she photographed. It can be seen here: https://reginaray.photography/chapter-in-our-lives

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