Colour photography of Breige Cain, physician associate and teaching fellow, obstetrics and gynaecology, Northumbria and FPA member
Breige Cain, physician associate and teaching fellow, Northumbria and FPA member


Photographer Jessica van der Weert spent days with healthcare workers in Northumbria and Brent – from consultant physicians to nurses, porters and volunteers – to create a stark and compelling landscape of the UK during the most terrifying health crisis of our time.

In March 2020, Van der Weert determined “to capture powerful images of the frontline impact on healthcare professionals, while also documenting the social history of the pandemic.”

With financial support from the Jerwood Foundation and working in partnership with the Royal College of Physicians, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and ATMedics (Brent), the powerful portraits in ‘Selfless’ capture the stories of those who put themselves in the direct path of the virus, often with very little protection, by caring for patients as the country went into lockdown.

Supporting the portraits is a series of images taken in intensive and palliative care settings, as well as reportage photos with paramedics, a district nurse and volunteer workers in a temporary factory set up to urgently produce much-needed PPE.

“The response from the healthcare community stunned me – while we were going into lockdown and protecting ourselves from even the most basic human contact, they were putting themselves in the direct path of the virus, often with very little protection. Their dedication and selflessness are heroic.”

Outside of the hospital environment van der Weert took photographs of people in the high-risk category who have had to endure months of self-isolation and loneliness; a Hindu funeral in an area of London and community badly affected by the pandemic; and a family from south London who lost both parents.

“In equal measure I wanted to capture the enormous scale of loss, tragedy and grief. It’s a vital moment in history that has to be captured, to ensure that future generations will remember, and that those who perished would never be forgotten.”


‘Selfless’ opening dates

RCP at the Spine, Liverpool: 19 May to 19 June, Mon-Fri 9am-5pm

RCP at Regent’s Park, London: 1 to 29 July, 5 to 30 Sept, Mon-Fri 9am-5pm and at monthly Museum Lates