Theatre is the first photobook by London-based artist and photographer Lewis Khan. In this in-depth study of the NHS, Khan was granted rare and unrestricted access to two of London’s leading NHS hospitals over a four-year period. He turns his lens on the people that make up the hospital – the staff and the patients – and on the clinical procedures and wider environment.
In 2015, Khan was invited by the official charity of Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, CW+ to undertake an artist residency at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, London. Khan set about to create a body of work that would be a voice against the privatisation of the NHS. As the project went on, this overtly political focus became context to the project, whilst what emerged was a much more universal study of human strength and fragility. Khan’s practice in the hospital was considered and reflective – he would often shadow members of staff for days and weeks at a time before introducing a camera. The process of embedding himself within the hospital offered Khan the insight needed to hone the concept and create meaningful work in an extremely sensitive environment.
Theatre offers an insight into the frontline of the NHS. From surgeons, scrub nurses and matrons, the operating table itself – wires, blood, emotion – to some of Europe’s leading oncology consultants and their patients, Theatre is a study of the people that make up the hospital, and the fabric of their environment. Through prolonged and unprecedented access, Khan worked intimately amongst high-level clinical situations and procedures, whilst at the same time focusing on the lesser seen aspects of the hospital – cleaners, visitors, staff rooms, bed bays, curtains and things left behind. This all-encompassing approach both pairs and juxtaposes the clinical with the sentimental. Theatre seeks to deepen our understanding of the fundamental themes running through healthcare and its environment, such as mortality and well-being.
Theatre looks beyond the conventionally mediated images of hospitals – the simplistic or the sensational – and steps into new ground with regards to photography and the healthcare environment. As the NHS continues to be a topic at the heart of British political debate, Theatre is a timely celebration of the institution and the people relied on by the British population every single day.
The project is situated in the context of the contemporary landscape of UK healthcare – the potential privatisation of the NHS – and there is an allegorical connection between the immediate themes explored in the project and the unfolding wider political situation.
The Lost Light Recordings is an independent publisher that works with photographers to realise projects through the medium of photobooks. Each book that is published is carefully hand-crafted in the UK, and produced as a limited numbered edition.
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