(Photo Credit: Removing the Unhealthy Heart by Dani Greene)
Dani Greene‘s photograph, Removing the Unhealthy Heart, is currently featured in the “Red” exhibition in the Center’s Main Gallery. Her image displays a patient’s failing heart as it is delicately held and removed by a doctor. Through thoughtful documentation, Greene’s photographs allow the general viewer to better understand the realities of open-heart surgery. In her artist statement, Greene discusses her medical photo documentary predecessors and the ongoing history of the doctor-patient-photographer relationship:
Medicine and doctors have historically been a popular topic of documentary photographers. Jean Mohr, W. Eugene Smith, Eugene Richards, and even the FSA [photographers] have been enthralled by the doctor-patient relationship, the process of healing, and the results when that process fails.
In surgery, modern technology intersects with the humanity it supports. Surgery has been compared to theatre: it is a performance. The surgeons, nurses, and the patient work towards the common goal of preservation and continuation of life. The stakes and pressure are high. There are visual components in the operating room that emphasize the dramatic. Spotlights emanate from doctors’ headlamps and overhead, and shine on the stainless steel operating instruments. The humanity of surgery coupled with the machinery generates a viscous tension.
Lincoln Kirstein, in his introduction to Walker Evans’ American Photographs, likens photography to surgery. He claims that the camera functions like the surgeon, cold and detached. I argue that neither the doctor nor the photographer is disconnected from the people they work with. They both relate with and impact their subject matter. They are accompanied by a history and an interest in people.
As a documentary photographer, I also operate in this theatre. My photographs examine this investment and the complexities of the relationship of photography to medicine. At UCLA hospital, I have been working with Dr. Mark Plunkett recording the details of these surgeries through photographs and video. The photographs from this relationship describe specific information: what a heart looks like, the equipment and tools used for the procedure, the operating room, and the heart lung machine.
More of Dani’s work can be found at: