Rare is the person who emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic unscathed. Whether being sick themselves, taking care of (or losing) sickened loved ones or dealing with all of the social, educational and financial fallout, just about everyone everywhere suffered through the unsettled past few years.
Then there are the front-line health care workers who dealt with – and are still dealing with – the worst the pandemic had to offer.
How do you honor those who have sacrificed so much in service for others?
Durango photographer Todd Macon is seeking public spaces to display the 20x16 portraits he took of health care workers.
For more information and to contact Macon, visit his website: https://toddmacon.com.
For Durango photographer Todd Macon, that answer came last October in a conversation he had with his friend Dr. Kim Yeargin, who works at Mercy Hospital.
“I asked her how things were going and she said it’s been difficult for her and her colleagues, and they were starting to struggle,” he said. “I suggested that maybe a good morale booster would be to take portraits of people because I’ve learned with a lot of people I’ve done portraits for, they’ve commented that it makes them feel stronger. And so I suggested that I help them in this way.”
And so began what would ultimately become “The Be Seen Project,” which features 20x16 black-and-white portraits Macon took beginning in February – the project was pushed back because of the rise of the omicron surge, Macon said.
The portraits were taken in a space in a medical library Mercy offered for the project. Macon set up a backdrop, a studio strobe and a stool. Medical personnel were invited to sign up online for a time to have their photos taken, and they would meet with Macon for at least a half an hour. He would take pictures while having a conversation with them. He would end up photographing 27 people.
“There was a variety of reasons for people to come have their portrait taken. Word got out that actually the process was what was valuable, and it was for me, also. It was the ability to kind of talk candidly with someone that wanted to appreciate them,” he said. “There were a lot of tears, but there was also laughter and there were a lot of stories, and I just let the conversations go where they needed to; I didn’t have set questions for them, the only question that was kind of consistent across the board was my opening question: What have we learned through this pandemic?”
The answer to that question varied, Macon said, except for one: “Their appreciation for each other. That that’s what a lot of times (during) the thickest and darkest parts got them through.”
In a news release, Macon said he said he initially began the project as a volunteer effort, but Yeargin and Dr. Jim Birgenheier approached hospital administration with a proposal to support the project while giving full artistic control to Macon. The hospital also gave financial support for printing, framing and some of his time.
“The hospital was very supportive. Not only did they like the project and appreciate the spirit of it, but they gave me full control while also helping to pay for supplies and some of my time,” he said. “I initially went into it as a volunteer effort, but the doctors asked the hospital to lend their support and they did so gladly and generously.
“I wanted this project to be about the individuals that have cared for our community during this challenging time,” he said. “These images are intended for our community to see in a powerful way the dedicated and caring people behind the masks.”
Moving forward, Macon hopes to display the portraits in the greater community. He’s currently looking for places that will hang some of the photographs along with a small plaque that explains that these are the front-line health care workers who worked through the pandemic locally.