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  • Writer's pictureSophie Sheinwald

2020 Vision Project - Unmasking the Year

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

2020 has been a year of insurmountable challenge, great patience and plenty of frustration. More recently, it has become a time where tiers led to tears as many missed out on seeing family over the Christmas period. For healthcare workers, it has been a relentless tsunami of patient care, with the knock on effect of increased referrals within mental health. This tribute, launched in March 2020, is to say a BIG thank you to the people who continue to serve us.

2020 Vision Project started as a simple idea

With the echo of the Thursday 8pm NHS applause back in March 2020, I put out a call on social media, asking photographers far and wide, if they’d like to join me in photographing portraits of UK healthcare workers. Incredibly, a collaboration started to grow within a week of my FB Live post. Hundreds of talented photographers got in touch from across the nation. As the project grew, we all began to connect up with healthcare workers to book in their photo sessions. But instead of shooting in healthcare environments and in their uniform, the focus was to capture the essence of their personalities – behind the mask!

Collectively we have each done our best to represent areas across the UK from physicians to carers, from ambulance drivers to engineers and from midwifes to forensic pathologists. Each healthcare worker has shared their a story, what challenged them and what kindness inspired them. The overriding message has been, dedication, camaraderie and resourcefulness - an inspiring human story.

Showcase Exhibition of 100 portraits

Although we plan to have more exhibitions going forward, we initially decided to select 100 photos for a showcase to mark 6 months since the first lockdown. So we did this during the 25th to 27th September 2020. The venue was in London, at the historic St Ethelburgas Centre of Reconciliation and Peace. With restrictions in place, it had to be by invitation only, but we had visitors who came from Edinburgh, Carlisle and Derby as well as Birmingham, Southampton and Brighton.

Beautiful portraits were up on the walls, that were printed by Loxley Colour.

The weekend marked this incredible collaboration of photographers and visual storytellers with a very special tribute to healthcare workers. All the responses were very touching.

“It’s been emotional. They (photographers) take a snapshot of healthcare colleagues, in moments where they were experiencing some relief from the intense pressure that was there for all those months and is ongoing. The stories are very real and very similar in trying to help people and their colleagues as much as they can. That’s something that has come out from all these stories, it’s about people supporting one another.” A.B.

Behind the Mask - Digital online exhibition

Rightfully so, there was a cry out from people who couldn’t come to the live exhibition. They wanted to see the portraits and read the stories written by healthcare workers. So we recently created an online 'Behind the Mask' exhibition between the 23rd to the 27th December 2020 – during what was meant to be a time for our Christmas bubbles.

We put out an update out to social media channels and were blown away by the sheer amount of views to the online exhibition. We simply put the links up on social media and it just went viral.

And the comments came flooding in...

"Amazing, beautiful photos and reading their stories makes them so real and brings tears to my eyes! Thank you." – V.J.S
"”Brilliant, love it on so many levels. Well done for bringing all this together” – L.B.
"“What an amazing legacy, fantastic” – L.H
“What incredible photos of the superheroes who we’re all so grateful for.” – K.B.


There is more work to do, more ideas to pull off in 2021, including projections onto buildings and more exhibitions to showcase these amazing people. However we pause in gratitude for the amazing help initially received by photographer and videographer Annie Murray, founder of Edit Sweet, who also used her charitable trust Horizon to gain experience from the 2020 Vision Project in prime lockdown, which lead to the project's Arts Council funding. We are also very thankful for the invaluable teamwork from Chris De Banks and Sherrina Dawson.

There have also been people within the NHS - some who I've nagged for help - they have been just amazing, Guy Noble, Ganesh Suntharalingham, Fiona Garth - thank you! Special thanks to Candice Hurwitz for her direction. Thank you to the Marie Curie hospice team for nominating healthcare workers during their very busy schedules. And to those photographers who wanted to take part but had to let go - times were tough for all.

In hindsight it was a really crazy period to be working on a project like this, in the midst of people adjusting to this bonkers pandemic!

Thank you to all those photographers who came forward with offers of additional help. Massive thank you Debbie Bedford from Loxley Colour for generously organising the printing of the 100 photos for our showcase .

What the future holds

So in 2021 we will continue to highlight these workers, we are getting requests for more collaboration, more stories to share. We would love to hear from you if you have any ideas regarding the project for this next phase of the pandemic.

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