Regular readers will know of my interest in the subject of using art for healing. Today’s blog features an interview with Elaine Poggi of the Foundation for Photo/Art in Hospitals.
How do I know Elaine Poggi?
A couple of years ago I read an article about Elaine’s work with the Foundation. I wanted to support such a good cause so I became a contributing photographer. I donated my image ‘Tranquility Discovered‘. Since then my photograph has been used in Australia, Careggi Hospital in Florence, St. Paul Minnesota, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
I was so happy to have the opportunity to interview Elaine and find out more about her motivation and the work of the Foundation.
Interview with Elaine Poggi of the Foundation for Photo/Art in Hospitals
Background to the Foundation
Elaine, tell us a bit about the Foundation. What does it do?
The Foundation for Photo/Art in Hospitals has a unique mission. In order to give comfort and hope to patients and their families/caregivers and visitors, it aims to place large, framed photographs of nature and beautiful places from around the world in hospitals.
Studies show that images of nature have a beneficial effect on relieving a patient’s stress and anxiety. The photographs are intended to provide color where healing is encouraged within an atmosphere of compassion.
What is your background Elaine? Why did you start the Foundation?
I am an American citizen and have resided in Florence, Italy, for many years. In 2001, my 85-year-old mother was admitted to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I left my family in Italy to be with my mother and assisted her all day, and sometimes all night, every day of her almost three-month stay in the hospital.
Along with my mother, I experienced endless hours of loneliness, staring at sterile, white hospital walls. Out of desperation to bring life and color back into my mother’s life during her stay, I decided to alleviate the cold and unfriendly hospital environment by decorating her room. I used my enlarged photographs of underwater scenes and landscapes of Florence. Immediately, my mother’s room had a more comforting atmosphere. The photographs had the effect of boosting my mother’s morale. It also quickly became a topic of conversation for the hospital staff, other patients, and visitors.
Upon my return to Florence, while mourning my mother’s passing, I kept thinking about what happened when I put up the photographs. If my photos had such a positive effect on my mother, perhaps they could offer comfort to other patients and families. Perhaps they could take their minds off their illnesses if only for a few moments.
Elaine’s Mission: Placing Photos Where They are Needed the Most
Because of this experience with my mother, I founded the Foundation for Photo/Art in Hospitals. My mission now is to place colorful, soothing photographs of nature and beautiful places from around the world in hospitals.
My wish is to give hope and comfort to patients and their families, visitors, and caregivers to help soften the often stressful hospital experience. I hope that those who view the photos we provide will feel the joy and love felt while photographing the scenes for them.
The requests for photos are increasing and now many photographers/artists, like you, Dorothy, have added images to the collection. There are so many hospitals with white walls that my mission is endless. I am humbled and encouraged to continue because of the enthusiastic, positive feedback from patients and hospital staff who are already viewing the photos in hospitals.
Photo/Art in Hospital Settings
What sort of photos/art works well in hospital settings?
Colorful nature art works best, as many research studies have shown.
What style or subject of art do you usually prefer to work with at the Foundation for your projects and why?
Choosing the subject of the art depends where our photos will be installed. For example, animals work well in children’s hospitals, but do not work well in Behavioral Units. Flowers work well in breast health centers as well as maternity units.
For hospices, where patients may be near the end of their lives, rainbows, fields of sunflowers, sun, open space, and friendly animals work well. But not underwater photography, strong colors, dark colors, paths that end, confusion, sunsets, autumn, and winter photos.
How the Foundation for Photo/Art in Hospitals Works In Practice
What happens when you receive a request from a hospital for images? How do you structure projects from start to finish? Does the hospital make a financial contribution?
The Foundation is usually approached by a representative for a hospital facility. With available funds they can contact me directly and order the nature photos of their choice. The minimum order is 10 photos but the Foundation can help the coordinator to decide on the quantity of photos needed for the specific area of the facility, hospital, or medical center.
Photos are selected from our photo gallery and the list is sent to me by email. Most facilities choose our standard black or beige frames, crafted in Northern Italy, but custom frames and sizes are available upon request. We can also send photos without frames.
Although all images are donated by me as well as our Contributing Photographers, we request a donation by or on behalf of the facility to cover the expenses of photo printing, laminating, framing, shipping, and handling. This donation is tax deductible in the USA. After I receive the order, I send the coordinator a proposal for the funds needed for the project.
Once the donation to the Foundation has been agreed and paid, I prepare the photos and ship them to the healthcare facility by UPS. It can take two months from the order being placed to delivery.
The hospital/healthcare facility then hangs the photos in the proposed area.
Often the facility organizes a dedication or inauguration of the new photo exhibition. This is often covered by local press, which is good publicity for the hospital, the Foundation and the contributing artists.
Of course many hospitals have little or no funding. The Foundation never refuses a request, always sending five – 15 nature photos as a gift from The Foundation for Photo/Art in Hospitals, funds allowing.
How do you decide which pieces are a good fit for an individual project? How much involvement does staff or patients at the hospital have in selecting the pieces that will go on display?
I prefer that the staff or patients choose the images. Otherwise, I choose the images, according to where the photos will be placed, such as animals for children’s hospitals, etc. as I described previously.
What has been the most challenging project you have undertaken and why?
Our project in Porto Alegre, Brazil was my most emotional project. Luciana Quinto, who found me on Instagram and who requested photos for various hospitals in her city, had cancer and was dying while we were working on these projects. She did not tell me of her health until near the end of the second project. After a few days I received an email from her father who was director of one of the hospitals, telling me of her passing. Luciana was 35 years old… We were in the process of sending photos to the Cancer Center where she had been treated. Her father continued the project and after the photos were installed, there was an inauguration of the photos.
I wrote a tribute to Luciana, which was read at the inauguration and all honored this lovely woman who believed that art could transcend illness. Although I never met Luciana, I will keep her in my heart forever…
What is the most recent project completed by the Foundation?
I just shipped photos to two hospitals in Australia – Narrabri Hospital and Muswellbrook Hospital, to Saratoga County Mental Health and Addition Services in New York, and to the Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria di Cagliari in Italy.
For Photographers/Artists Who Are Thinking Of Producing Photos/art For Hospital Settings
What are the key things that photographers/artists should bear in mind when designing a piece for use in a hospital setting?
Since we enlarge the photos to 50 cm by 75 cm, the photos must be in high resolution/large files and be in focus. We are looking for colorful, nature photos that create a happy, tranquil feeling – no storms, dark skies, scary animals or fish, or people. Photographers/artists interested can find out more on our website.
How do photographers/artists submit pieces to the Foundation? Is it a ‘free licence to use arrangement’? Does the photographer/artist retain the copyright of the image?
Photographers can contact me by email. After we choose together the photo or photos to be donated, I will need them to sign a Photo Release Form which can be found on our website. The photographers still own the photo but allow the Foundation to use it for healthcare facilities.
Final Thoughts On Making A Difference
I know you get a lot of feedback from the work you do. Is there one particular response that you feel really summarizes why the work of the Foundation is so important?
At the moment, we have 204 reviews on the Great Nonprofits website, but this one summarizes it for me:
“I just came back from one of the Hospitals, JM de Los Rios. We hung 5 of the pictures you sent. It was an incredible experience. We put them in the infectology ward, where they have most of the patients with HIV. You have no idea the effect your pictures have caused, both the hospital staff and the patients were incredible happy! I have to translate to you some of the things they said, but they had a patient, she is a 16 year old mother who has a 3 month old baby, both HIV+ the condition of the baby is critical, the girl is very poor, she’s been in the hospital for 3 weeks, and when we hung the pictures she went out, smiled and said to us:
“Finally something that gives me a reason to smile in this place”!
It was amazing. Again Elaine I can’t thank you enough not only for doing this wonderful project but also for making me part of it. Going today to the hospital and looking at those people’s faces, smiling, having nice comments on the photos, taking pictures of them – it was a wonderful experience. I hope you realize the wonderful job you are doing, and that you have the chance one day to visit all the hospitals where you are donating your pictures!”
Jessica Hammer, Caracas, Venezuela
Thanks to Elaine
My thanks to Elaine for agreeing to be interviewed but also for her wonderful work! To have a clear vision of how you can make a difference in the world, pursuing it and seeing the fruits of your labor is a wonderful thing. I am so happy to play a small part in that.
As well as being able to contribute photographs to the Foundation you can make a financial contribution, there is a donate button on the website.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!