Today is April 7, 2020. Today is the day to celebrate the work of nurses and midwives and remind world leaders of the critical role they play in keeping the world healthy. I am taking this opportunity to pay my tribute to all the health workers including Nurses, Auxillary Nurses & Midwives (ANM) and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) by sharing one of my captured photographs, which is my personal favorite.
For the last couple of years, I am traveling across India as a commissioned health science photographer to capture the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). During this journey, I have encountered several frontline health workers and witnessed their works in the field. By holding their hands, I have crossed rivers like Brahmaputra and Narmada, climbed the Himalayas, experienced the extreme beauties of life in far-flung India. I have captured a few thousands of photographs in these two years. But this particular photograph remains close to my heart, till date. This is a photograph of about 3D – Determination, Dedication, and Delivery, based on which the entire foundation of the public health system of India is alive. Let me tell you the exciting story behind this photograph.
The global history of immunization shows some amazing creativity in terms of documentation. Keeping aside the science and art of discovery to delivery of vaccines, there were numerous people, outside scientific fields, enriched the history with their creativity. Apart from the scientific papers, the history of immunization had been documented by paintings, literature, folk arts, photographs, poetry, and many other forms. For example, Athenian historian and General Thucydides, who scientifically documented the Peloponnesian War (430 BC) and thus the scientific world came to know about the Plague of Athens (430 BC), including the symptoms of the victims during the epidemic. Or for example, the metaphorical connection between the famous rhyme “Ring a Ring o’ Rosie” with the Great Plague of England (1665) as described by noted English folklorists Lona and Peter Opie.
As a commissioned health science photographer, I have encountered a few cases of vaccine hesitancy (reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated) which I have documented. Being a person of visual communication, I am always searching for a frame that is powerful yet positive enough to break the hesitancy. I have not succeeded yet, at least not very convincing to me. But 67 years ago an unknown photographer already did it, that popped up during my recent photo research on global vaccination. And it immediately became my all-time favorite image against vaccine hesitancy. Let me tell the background story and narrate the photograph in terms of composition and visual literacy.
While doing some photo research on historical archival images of global vaccination, I came across this simple yet powerful image that struck me. A very straight forward, properly exposed environmental portrait of a person without any dramatic appearance that was captured in September 1862. But the guy was not straight at all. To know about this person we have to dig deep into the history of the American civil war.
The world is desperately searching for a vaccine to fight against COVID-19. And New York City is one of the worst affected cities around the globe. Let me tell you an amazingly positive story connected to the vaccination and the Central Park of New York City.
While doing some photo research on historical archival images of global vaccination, an image of a dog suddenly stuck me. A bronzed sculpture of the dog stands in Central Park at Manhattan of New York City – currently one of the worst affected cities by COVID-19 in the world.
Balto, the name of the dog whom the Central Park is mentioned as “a bronzed hero, near the Tisch Children’s Zoo, who stands ready to accept hugs and offer rides to his admiring fans“. To know Balto (1919 – 1933), we have to go back to 1925. An outbreak of diphtheria in Alaska. The Great Race of Mercy.
When you are scanning through the viewfinder of your latest acquired sophisticated digital camera to achieve the best possible frame, have you ever wondered about another automated scanning system behind the viewfinder that is silently directing you to acquire that desired frame? Your eye, the HUMAN VISUAL SYSTEM (HVS), has been likened to a camera in many descriptions and indeed, superficially, this is true.
A common error is to think of medical photography as just one new specialty among many, yet medical illustration is as old as medicine itself and the present is only a very short interval of time between the past and the future. 
This is an invariable truth that paintings and illustrations are as old as mankind itself and photography itself is too young to compare. The precursor of photography was the Camera Obscura (Latin; camera for “vaulted chamber/room”, obscura for “dark”), which was invented only in 1457 and was mostly used by artists only as an aid to painting. Hence, the history of medical illustration cannot be ignored, as it has grown over a period of time that is much older the than concept of medical photography.