Nazia Malik Do the tools make the workhouse or does the workhouse make the tool?

As part of the Medicine and Photography Student Selected Component at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry (2011) Nazia Malik considered our perception of medical equipment.

“With this project, I intended to use my camera to capture pieces of common medical equipment removed from their ‘natural habitat’. By doing so, I hoped to consider their significance and status outside a clinical setting.

By placing the medical equipment in the centre of the print, the viewer’s eye is immediately drawn there. Their mind will start to conjure up images of the object’s use in medicine, their medical identity. The viewer can then expand their field of vision to the environment in the objects have been placed and the environment invites the viewer to form new conclusions about the equipment. Although, the environment can alter our perception of an object some continue to hold their meaning.

For example, a stethoscope, which is seen as an essential tool in medical practice, is so commonly associated with doctors that even when placed hanging from a ladder, it remains a stethoscope. However, if a needle is seen outside of a medical setting, a place where they are so commonly found and utilised, our minds will often explore issues of drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. Whether the environment in which they have been photographed has influenced or transformed our opinions of these pieces of medical equipment or if they have ‘held their own’ in their new home, maintaining their importance, is dependent on the objects in question and the associations society attaches to them.”

Nazia Malik