Local photography aids healing environment

From the Spinnaker Tower to Southampton’s old city walls, inspiring images of local scenes have become a trademark of Solent’s refurbished hospitals and health buildings.

The famous landmarks, captured on camera by Southampton based photographer Joe Low, bring our corridors, consulting rooms, wards and waiting areas alive with colour and conversation.

All are designed to be uplifting; to raise the spirits of patients and help them on their road to recovery.

Often the artwork also provides a useful talking point between a clinician and their patient.

Following a trial at St Mary’s Community Health Campus in Portsmouth, Joe’s photos have been used as the finishing touches for several transformation projects.

Currently, as well as St Mary’s, they grace the walls at The Orchards at St James’ Hospital, Portsmouth, our combined health hub in Eastleigh, Bitterne Health Centre in Southampton and Jubilee House at Cosham.

The artwork, often selected by staff, tends to be the very last thing that gets installed at the end of a scheme; the cherry on the top.

For Joe, who specialises in architectural photography, it is a great honour to think his images could be helping patients.

“I am so grateful to Solent NHS Estates for commissioning me with these projects,” he said.

“I believe photographs can be a great benefit to the viewer’s wellbeing.”

Joe referred to a study in America by healthcare architect Dr Roger Ulrich which monitored patients in two wards of a hospital; one having windows with views of a natural landscape, the second looking out on to a brick wall.

The study found that patients with the view of nature recovered more quickly than those on the other ward. They also suffered fewer complications and used less pain relief.

“Replace the window with an inspiring landscape or heritage photograph and the same effect can be achieved,” said Joe.

“It’s a great joy for me to feel my photographs, in this environment, can be of benefit to the wellbeing of the building’s occupants.”

It was back in 2019 that Joe was approached by Solent Estates’ own design and artwork expert, Abi Dowell, about providing photographs of Portsmouth for the refurbishment of Block B at St Mary’s.

The brief was to source atmospheric and uplifting images featuring scenic views and landmarks relevant to the local area. These were to be bright, sunny and optimistic, giving patients and staff the opportunity to connect with locations they would recognise.

Joe’s stunning images – often used to a large size – were so popular that further schemes have followed, the most recent of which has been Jubilee House, a historic building now transformed into a busy outpatient centre.

For Jubilee House, Joe researched the Cosham area, taking photographs at Lakeside North Harbour, Portsdown Hill, Hilsea, Portchester Castle and Langston Harbour.

Abi explained: “We wanted to capture a sense of place through eye-catching images of the local landscape, including historic landmarks and much-loved points of interest.

“Joe took a series of photographic images from which the musculoskeletal team selected their favourites, with one photo featuring Jubilee House’s prominent red front door.

“The images were then printed and displayed in patient areas throughout the building to complement the fresh and modern interior design and patient-friendly wayfinding signage.”

In addition, two consulting rooms used by younger patients display large-scale wall graphics of natural landscapes sourced from an image library. One shows Southsea beach and pier, while the other has a forest pathway.

“Not only do these artworks help to put patients at ease by softening the clinical space and adding to the calm and welcoming environment, but they can be useful to encourage conversation or act as a focal point during treatment,” added Abi.

Sally Frost, Musculoskeletal Operational Lead, said Joe’s photographs added to the therapeutic environment at Jubilee House, helping to instil a feeling of calm and positivity.

“Our aim is to get patients active again, so for them to see uplifting shots of local countryside and places of interest can be very inspiring,” she said.

“The photos also help make for a welcoming, homely environment for our staff, It made a huge difference when the images went up on our freshly painted – but very plain – walls. We all said how they finished things off perfectly.”


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