Photo Essay By Louis Brems


Covering COIVD-19 for the last year has been a challenge. The limitations of not showing patients or PHI can make things more complicated than usual. Many of the images all start to look the same. Nurses are donning PPE, gathering and administering medications, and transporting patients between units. Quite often, I struggled to make an image that was different or impactful due to HIPAA limitations. Along with that challenge comes the desire to succeed. That's where preplanning and my thought process begin. Sometimes things work out, and other times they don't. In photography, we have a saying of sometimes you’re lucky, other times you’re just good, and sometimes it's a little of both.

The image I chose is a combination of both. A few days before this image was made, someone in a home theater Facebook group I’m a member of posted an image of an “E.T.” poster they got autographed by Steven Spielberg. I began to wonder if I could create a similar image on a COVID-19 unit. Hands touching hands. I knew I would need to wait for the moment, and I ultimately decided that I didn’t want the hands touching.

To me, the idea of hands coming together had more appeal than if they were already touching or held together. This is similar to my approach on the kiss in wedding photography. Most of the time, you see two faces smashed together in an embrace. What you don't see is clean faces in anticipation of the kiss. I settled on the idea of the moment just before the hands touch. I love the anticipation and letting the brain complete the scene. In seeing the movie poster and then capturing the image, I couldn't help but think about the message of “home” from the movie. Some of these patients go home, and some don't, which struck a chord within me. Some of the last faces these patients see are the nurses who have lovingly cared for them for weeks or months.

This particular moment was one I attempted to capture several times after seeing the poster and failed to get it right. I felt I finally got it as close to what I envisioned in my mind. The discoloring and cracking of the patient's skin tell another story itself. You know the patient is going through something terrible and the nurse reaching out creates that caring human moment. I believe The Beatles said it best with their first single, “I want to hold your hand.” Here in the hospital, nurses hold patients’ hands, comfort them, and do their best to nurse them back to health. Hopefully, 2021 will bring more hand holding, handshakes instead of fist bumps, and everyone getting a chance to return home to gather with family and friends.