A Very Rare Genre: Medical Photography

A Very Rare Genre: Medical Photography

After years of working in typical areas of photography, Eneil Simpson, has found his calling in a very surprising place: the operating room. As a former flight instructor, Simpson stumbled into very unique and rarely seen world of ophthalmic and surgical photography, after asking his eye doctor if he could sit in on and take an environmental portrait of him. This intended “one off”, resulted in further opportunities, as surgeons began to recommend him to their colleagues.

The fascinating world of surgical photography certainly isn't for everyone, and this in itself poses a challenge for Simpson when trying to get his work seen. The nature of the work is hard. It requires a lot of skill, in not only getting good shots in a crowded and messy space, but also in understanding the need to stand aside and allow the focus to go where it needs to be, on the patient. Simpson can take at least 200 photographs and spend around 10 hours in the OR, capturing moments from a wide range of surgeries, including; knee replacements, spinal surgeries, bowel resections, ophthalmic procedures and even skull surgery. With not much more than a small step ladder, his camera, close up filters, extra batteries and flash cards on him, Simpson has taken some truly remarkable photos of the magnificent and traumatic side of medicine.  He takes great care when trying to vary the angles of his shots and tries to avoid taking photos of the surgeon’s faces, preferring rather to shoot the most interesting aspects of the surgery itself.

In regards to his choice of camera, Simpson’s journey began with the help of a Nikon F4, and recently, a Nikon D810 camera. He also uses Tokina AT-X 24-70mm f/2.8 PRO FX and Nikon70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR  lenses. From a post-production perspective, Simpson uses his Mac to copy everything and handles any sorting through Adobe Bridge. Photoshop is also used to sharpen and make any necessary adjustments. As one would expect, the lighting inside an operating room is varied, stemming from multiple light sources. To accommodate this, camera's white balance is kept on auto. Lightroom is then used and everything is copied there and also onto a flash and external hard drive. Using a flash is avoided, (due to the flat look it can create) but Simpson prefers the effects of mixed lighting and shadows anyway.

With a background in more typical 4x5 architecture, wedding, portrait, aerial and headshot photography, surgical photography is the niche area where he has ended up. Whilst he would ultimately like to prepare images for a gallery showing, at the moment, he is focused on building up his portfolio, which can be found on his website.

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4 Comments

Very interesting article! As a physician myself, who enjoys photography as a hobby, I've been thinking of how to dip into something similar to this, I've especially thought about a series of portraits of patients in the hospital, to document the experience of being hospitalized. Even images of the extensive networks of tubes, and wires and drains on a critical pare patient can create a very powerful image if done well. I've just been too chicken to even bother asking my hospital administration for permission to consider such a project (patient privacy concerns being the issue) - but perhaps they may not refuse after all? Seeing Mr Simpson's work tells me maybe there's a chance.

Nice to see a less than common genre of photography being displayed. (I was also interested to see his choice of lenses - never would have though of using a 70-200 in a small OR. Maybe since they can not treat his camera gear as sterile they're putting some strict restrictions on distance from pt).

Hello Omar
To get what you want just ask. My choice of lense is based on being able to shoot from a distance so as to stay out of the way. I have always been allowed to get closer if need be.
Eneil

Thanks for your reply and great work! (sorry for the late reply < ---- busy physician who assumed that I would get a notification if someone replied to a comment of mine). I will take your advice as inspiration to ask - if i'm brave enough to do it, I will post on here!

Great article, i'm a medical photographer too (south of france), and the OR is a fascinating place to shoot.