Photographs taken during the region’s Covid-19 pandemic illustrate an exclusive book documenting Turanga Health staff mahi during March 2022.
Mānuka Takoto Kawea Ake, I Whakaaetia Te Wero, Working in a Pandemic: March 2022 is a limited edition coffee-table book capturing the gritty reality of working alongside the public as the Covid-19 Omicron strain ripped through Tairāwhiti.
Turanga Health chief executive Reweti Ropiha says the powerful images taken by locally acclaimed photographer Brennan Thomas will evoke memories and inspire conversations for years to come.
“It’s been a tumultuous two years and March 2022 stands out for many.”
During the month-long assignment Turanga Health staff were photographed working at Covid-19 vaccination events and testing stations, in the general practice at Te Karaka, and while providing care in the community. Staff who were ill with Covid-19 or isolating with whānau were photographed outside their homes from a safe distance.
“It’s an incredible as-it-happened account of an interesting time in our history.”
March 2022 was a busy time at Turanga Health. Daily cases of Covid-19 in Tairāwhiti and New Zealand hit record numbers. The purpose of testing shifted away from trying to find every case, to instead providing intelligence on the size and spread of the regional outbreak. For Turanga Health staff it meant managing the dual demands of prevention and management. “That month our staff learned to pivot as and when needed and Mānuka Takoto Kawea Ake has captured all of that with candour.”
Turanga Health board chair Pene Brown says every staff member employed by Turanga Health in March 2022 was featured. “The book acknowledges that everyone had a part to play, and that everybody was part of a successful response.” Alongside each staff photo is a written account capturing the small intimate details of a person’s work and their emotions on the day.
He says the book is a keepsake for staff and has now become a companion piece of literature sitting alongside news stories and scholarly articles documenting the time. Mr Brown says “this style of storytelling will age well.”
Photographer Brennan Thomas says there were challenges wearing, and photographing people in, personal protective equipment (ppe) and face masks. “Working in my own ppe made for sauna-like conditions but it was nothing compared to what the staff were experiencing. You could see it was tough and physically draining.”
He adds that the assignment was unusual because no one really knew what would happen next. “It’s rare for a photographer to have access to a group of people who, despite the seriousness of the situation, are happy to have their lives unfold on camera and tell their story as and when it happens.”
Two hundred out of 3000 photos were selected for the 80-page book written by journalist Hayley Redpath and designed by Rose Hutchings from Draggnett Design.
Copies were gifted to Turanga Health staff at Christmas. Books have been distributed to national and local decision-makers, and copies have also gone into libraries, iwi collections, and health and education organisations.
“The book is an invaluable record of staff and their mahi and is sure to spark reflections on humankind and Covid-19 for generations to come,” says Mr Ropiha.
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