Prairie Post (West Edition)

Photojourn­alist shares pandemic retrospect­ive


Leah Hennel talked about her book Alone Together: A Pandemic Photo Essay at the Word on the Street Festival on Sept. 17.

Long-time photojourn­alist and current Alberta Health Services employee, Leah Hennel, told a crowd about her book, Alone Together: A Pandemic Photo Essay, on Saturday at the Word on the Street Festival.

The book told the story through Hennel’s photos of the pandemic in Alberta for Alberta Health Services and for her own freelance career as a photojourn­alist.

“So it wasn’t just in the hospital, there’s a lot outside the hospital,” said Hennel.

The book takes readers through pictures of health care workers such as porters, nurses, respirator­y therapists, health care aides and what happened inside the hospitals during the pandemic.

“And it’s not just in the ICU of COVID patients, there’s babies being born, surgeries; but yeah a lot of COVID obviously,” said Hennel.

“So a lot of patient stories- some that didn’t make it, some that did and then a lot outside of the hospital of celebratio­ns like the drive-thru Eid al-Fitr (marks the end of Ramadan), drive-in movie theatres, and (drivethru) high school graduation­s and circles in the park where people were social distancing.”

Photos in the book are from Brooks, Lethbridge and Calgary.

A memorable story from the book was about a lady named Christine Wesley.

“She came into the hospital very sick with COVID and she was pregnant,” said Hennel.

“She had to be intubated and while she was intubated, they had to perform an emergency C-section to save the baby. Mom and baby are OK, but she woke up thinking she was still pregnant. So the frontline staff had to tell her she’s not. Her baby was two floors up in the NCU (Neo-Natal Care Unit), so her first moments seeing her baby Oscar was through an iPad.”

Hennel said it was a collaborat­ive process.

“Yeah, patients got to see their photos before I published them and to say what they were OK with; that was very important,” said Hennel.

“I haven’t had time to sit and process,” said Hennel.

“I’m still continuing the work.” Hennel was a staff photojourn­alist at the Calgary Herald for 19 years, and she freelances on the side for the Globe and Mail, CBC and The Guardian.

She has been an AHS staff documentar­y photograph­er for three years.

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