Photographer who took haunting shot of frightened Covid-19 nurse staring into a camera has work exhibited across UK

By Charlie Parry

A nurse and photographer who gave the public a glimpse into the front line of the battle against Covid-19 is now having her work exhibited across the UK.

Johannah Churchill, a diabetic nursing lead at a hospital in Wandsworth, created the now iconic image “Melanie, March 2020”.

It shows Melanie, a nurse, worriedly staring into the camera after preparing a Covid clinic in South-west London.

It has become a defining image of the UK’s battle against the virus, and is now being displayed around the country.

Johannah said: “Conditions at the time were extremely different. Anxiety levels were so high among patients and staff and throughout the nation.

“Working in a hospital (then) was the most mentally, physically and emotionally draining period of my life, and I know that there are healthcare and key workers struggling.”

Johannah Churchill , and the picture of Melanie Senior

Her image was originally commissioned for the Sunday Telegraph’s “Hold Still” project, led by the Duchess of Cambridge and the National Portrait Gallery, which set out to create a collective portrait of the UK during lockdown.

It now features in a display outside Waterloo railway station, in adverts across the London Underground, in Putney, Balham, Croydon and Wimbledon, and on Co-op supermarket digital screens around the country.

A giant mural of the photo has also been put up in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, which featured on the front pages of The Guardian and the Financial Times newspapers and across the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s social media accounts.

Johannah has been a nurse for 10 years, working in acute care as a district nurse.

After a stint at a busy London hospital, she went to Middlesex University to study photography.

She sees an important connection between her two passions, and said: “Nursing and photography share a common focus on people, communication and trust.

“In both jobs people give a bit of themselves over to you. You have to be very responsible with what they give you: it is a privilege.”

Churchill believes the arts can be a great outlet for nurses to cope with the emotions of the job, especially during the Covid pandemic.

“It’s important for nurses to have an outlet – it’s an emotional job. The arts can really support that.”

Pictured top: Johannah Churchill

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