Healing Photo Art from Tuscany to Tokyoby Elaine Poggi
Photographing the beauty of nature around the world is what I do for fun. From the rolling hills of Tuscany, to the white sandy tropical beaches of Zanzibar and the Maldive Islands, from the multicolored underwater world in the Red Sea, to the cherry blossoms in Tokyo—I see beauty wherever I go. I try to capture the image, and then my greatest joy is to share it with others.
For the past six years, I have been sharing my colorful photos with those who find themselves in healthcare facilities—patients, family members, and staff. I have visited hospitals in many parts of the world and they all have one thing in common: bare, white, sterile walls.
In 2002, I tried to change that by creating The Foundation for Photo/Art in Hospitals, an American nonprofit public charity. Through the foundation, more than 2000 photos have been placed in healthcare facilities on five continents. Since I donate my photos to the foundation, our cost of producing the framed photos is minimal. Our vision is to create a shift in the way people view hospitals, from cold and sterile to warm and welcoming. We wish to change hospitals by humanizing their environments, a concept that is slowly gaining influence in many countries.
Sometimes I select the photos, but I prefer that the hospital’s nurses and physicians choose, with the input of patients, if possible. In this way, they make the project their own, and thus are more likely to converse about their favorite images. Sometimes they pick photos that could be considered familiar local scenes. Other times they prefer images that are completely new to them.
Animal or underwater photos are usually chosen for children’s hospitals; kids everywhere are naturally interested in “friendly” animals and are attracted by bright colors. Alternatively, a variety of photos of places around the world were selected in the African hospitals, perhaps because patients and staff will never see other parts of the world and are curious. The coordinator for the hospital in Haiti opted for tropical photos because Haiti has beautiful beaches and she thought the patients would enjoy the familiarity. Staff from the hospital in Tokyo chose many photos of Tuscany, a favorite Japanese travel destination. All the photos placed in the psychiatric ward of the hospital in Florence, Italy were of beautiful Italian landscapes, many from nearby hills; these patients need to feel safe, with familiar surroundings and less stimulation.
As I photograph the splendor of nature wherever I travel, I am thinking of the patients who will view the images. I know the calming effects of nature firsthand because of my experience caring for my mother during her three-month hospital stay in 2001. I placed my photos in her room to bring color and comfort. It is because of this experience that I dedicate my time and talents to creating healing environments in healthcare facilities around the world.
Elaine Poggi is President of The Foundation for Photo/Art in Hospitals, Inc., based in Florence, Italy. For further information, call 39.335.619.6742, e-mail epoggi@HealingPhotoArt.org, or visit www.HealingPhotoArt.org.