The Story St George’s Hospital
I was asked by leading neurosurgeon Henry Marsh to create a photograph of a small wood. The photograph was to be displayed in the Neurological Outpatient waiting area in St George’s Hospital in London.
Henry Marsh had seen something similar in a Ukrainian hospital where he had frequently done charity work.
But this was to be no ordinary photograph… it was to be produced as a giant 4 x 2.1 metre display of first morning sunshine radiating out through the trees and streaming toward patients, staff and visitors. The image was to be back-lit, glowing with the light of the forest and making the viewer feel as if they are inhabiting that wood!
I had five months to find the appropriate wood and ensure that there was sufficient grass to act as a visual floor and, of course, to confirm that in May the first rays of morning sunshine would radiate through the trees in the correct manner.
Those rays ‘had’ to reach everyone upon whom they shone and needed to draw the viewer into the very heart of the ‘being there’ experience.
In December of that year, my 8-year-old twin granddaughters Bray and Fen accompanied me to the wood along with 30 kilograms of grass seed. “Why are we doing this?” they asked.
I explained that I was going to make a photograph in May the following year and wanted grass to be seen on the ground of the wood, and that I needed to have the first rays of morning sunshine bathing everyone in the sunlight. “How big will it be?” was their next question.
“It will be as big as your bedroom wall” I replied. They stared at me in disbelief.
A few months later, one early morning at 4am, I made my way up to the wood to find that the grass seed my granddaughters had helped me sow had already sprouted… and there was our carpet of grass!
Then I awaited the most beautiful and poignant moment when the sun once again dependably rose and gave me all I asked of it. It was almost as if it had spoken to me saying “you see, this is what I can do!”
I subsequently showed the light emitting display of our little wood to Bray and Fen and, for a long while, they stared at it in silence. Their silence told me everything.