Johannah Churchill, a renowned portrait and documentary photographer hailing from the north-east and serving as a lecturer at the University of Sunderland, is being honoured with a new exhibition commemorating the 75th anniversary of the NHS.
The exhibition, titled ‘People Not Profit’, is currently being showcased at Pop Recs in Sunderland.
This captivating display features some of Johannah’s most compelling portraits of NHS personnel, including the iconic image titled “Melanie, March 2020.” This photograph came to symbolize the United Kingdom’s resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Johannah, who underwent nursing training at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital between 2007 and 2010, captured this poignant image while working as a diabetic nursing lead in London. The photograph depicts her colleague, a fellow nurse, donning personal protective equipment (PPE) and assisting in setting up a COVID-19 clinic for patients during the early stages of the lockdown.
Now, this haunting image, known worldwide and closely associated with the pandemic, can be viewed alongside other evocative photographs at Pop Recs until Saturday, June 24. The exhibition not only celebrates Johannah’s work but also delves into the role of art and photography as forms of protest.
Johannah, who joined the University in August 2021, said: “PopRecs is building a community here in Sunderland in the most real sense of the word. They’re helping us shape our local culture, which in turn helps us to connect more deeply to each other and therefore I couldn’t ask for better values in an exhibition partner.
“I’m not always good at communicating my concerns with my voice – it’s one of the reasons I choose to photograph – and somehow the images manage to speak louder and resonate further than my words.”
In addition to the display, Johannah has collaborated with The Futureheads’ Ross Millard for Pop Recs to produce some powerful screenprints of her work. Postcards and t-shirts of this collaboration are available to buy at the exhibition – with all proceeds going to Keep Our NHS Public North East.
Ross said: “I love Johannah’s work and think her exhibition at Pop Recs is a must-see.
“I’ve really enjoyed us working together on producing some hand-pulled screen printed postcards and t-shirts for the show, which we hope will raise valuable funds.”
Ross added: “Pop Recs opened coming out of the pandemic and I think the show will fit the space and have a big impact in the venue room and the rear courtyard.”
Johannah has been photographing healthcare professionals for the last 10 years. Themes encompassing loss, illness and isolation are frequently referenced throughout her work. Johannah’s practice is often interwoven with her history as a nurse with her most known bodies of work drawing attention to the emotional complexities of ‘care’ and its impact on the carer.
Johannah’s work has contributed to many publications such as the Financial Times, the Telegraph, the Guardian and the British Journal of Photography, among others. Her work is held by the National Portrait Gallery, the Wellcome Collection and Sunderland Winter Gardens.
Dan Shannon, Director at Pop Recs, said: “Pop Recs is thrilled to work with Johannah Churchill to showcase some of her incredible work against the backdrop of ongoing industrial action in the NHS.
“We see the exhibition as a perfect platform from which to stand in solidarity with NHS workers, patients and their families.”