'Love Time' - An Interview with Lewis Khan on his latest series

We came across the work of photographer Lewis Khan a few months ago, and have been closely following him ever since. In one of his most recent series' 'Love Time', Lewis captured some incredibly moving imagery while in residency in the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. The images he produced are some of the best we've seen as of late, and so we were very excited to get the opportunity to chat with Lewis about the project and the story behind it.

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Stereotypically hospitals are seen as a place that people tend to avoid, what was it that drew you to one for your project ‘Love Time’?

So I was invited to do a residency in the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital by the arts charity associated with that hospital, CW+. To be honest I hadn’t really thought about doing a project in a hospital before that chance came along – but they’re amazingly interesting places and so obviously jumped at the opportunity to spend time making work in one.

In a place where I’m sure there are strict rules and procedures, were there many obstacle to over come on this project? 

Well I mean the first obstacle for doing this kind of thing is normally access, so it was amazing to have that side of things sorted by the charity, but past that kind of practical obstacle and talking more in terms of actually shooting and making the work, yes huge obstacles. Obviously the environment is extremely sensitive and some of the people very vulnerable, so my way was just to take everything very slowly. I spent about a month at the beginning shadowing different doctors and staff leaving my camera at home. And then bit by bit started bringing my camera and slowly started making pictures.

 

In one of your photos a person is wearing a t-shirt which has the slogan ‘Love Time’ written across it, why was that phrase adopted as the title for the project?

That photo is of a patient I met in the Cancer ward at the hospital – in the photo she is showing her finger nails which have white bands going across them. One of the side effects of chemo therapy is that your nails temporarily stop growing, so as you go through bouts of the treatment your nails go through this stop/start process of growing, resulting in a band each time.

I only noticed afterwards that her t-shirt says ‘love time’ on it, which I thought was a really fitting title for the project – on the one hand love time is what you go to hospital for – some care, some love, and on the other hand love time is a straight instruction, it’s telling you to love time. This patient sadly died shortly after this photo was taken.

With this project, did you go into it with a predetermined theme and approach, or was it a feeling out process?

I went into the hospital with a fair amount of preconception yes, my view was of the hospital as a big mechanical thing, kind of a factory. Spending time in there shadowing I really saw how human the place is - run by humans for humans. I went in with thoughts about the NHS and privatisation, and expected to follow that kind of a story. But my experience of being in the hospital wasn’t really about that, instead the thing I observed was how people can possess both strength and fragility, and how these qualities run across any traditional idea of power relationships within a hospital - e.g. a doctor and a patient. So in the end the work follows that train of thought.

Was is difficult to find subjects for the project? Or were patients and staff helpful/willing to take part?

The hospital is a busy place with lots of people doing important things – so I was always careful not to get in the way, or to be holding anything up or hindering anything. I did a lot of just hanging out, watching, chatting to people where I could. I generally got myself to a point where I felt comfortable in whatever surroundings I was in before taking out a camera, and I think maybe that came across because most people I engaged in the project were happy to be involved. On the one hand the hospital is super busy, but on the patient side there can also be a whole lot of waiting around – people are bored, stressed, maybe waiting on some results, so I think also some people were happy to chat and take pictures as a way of having their mind on something else – even for 5 minutes.

Some of your images were captured in a surgery, how did that come about and were there many obstacles with regards to hygiene/cleanliness?

Yeah shooting in the operating theatres was amazing! So it was all part of the same residency, in general I would work in one dept at a time, maybe staying in there for a few months before going to the next one. Theatres was one of the depts CW+ suggested, and I had been really keen to try and make it happen.

In terms of hygiene yeah I had to get my tripod and camera swabbed down and disinfected, and then I had to wear a set of scrubs, beard net, hair net, and a big lead robe that goes over your shoulders and comes down to your ankles – I had my fun playing doctors.

Big thanks to Lewis for chatting to us about this amazing project and for sharing these images. If you want to check out more of Lewis' work head over to his Instagram.