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By Emma Buchanan, J Source, Nov. 4

When B.C.-based photojournalist Jimmy Jeong took portraits of frontline health care workers in the spring of 2020, he says it was the ability to show the details in person that conveyed the weight of the situation — like the indents left on ICU nurses’ faces from hours of wearing a mask, or the bandages covering their cuts.

Jeong says he thinks readers were surprised to see health-care workers in that state, and the ability to “hear [their] voices and see their eyes” made more of an impact compared to health authorities’ press conferences at the time. As the months went on and the provinces reported case and death numbers, Jeong says that might be all they became for some people — numbers.

“I think people sometimes just need proof. And a photo can be proof that something bigger is going on.”

“Nothing is going to beat the on-the-ground reporting, right up front inside, where you are able to take viewers (or) readers to places that they don’t have access to,” Jeong says. “That’s what journalists are supposed to do. But it makes it difficult when there’s barriers set up blocking access.”

As journalists across Canada found themselves unable to access pivotal sites of the pandemic, these personal, human images of a health-care system and workforce in crisis independently documented by journalists were few and far between.

By late April 2020, photojournalist Jesse Winter had hit enough roadblocks trying to access health-care sites that he stopped prioritizing pandemic stories altogether.

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