Gulnaz Galimullina
"Are you ready to go into the dirty zone?". I heard this question several times. Only after filming I understand the reason for this simultaneous wonder and loss: it turned out that I was the first person in this hospital to take photos in the 'red' zone"
Two kinds of fear fought in me: the fear of a human being and that of a documentarian,
the fear of getting infected and that of missing a moment. The second type won. And I went to the 'red' zone.
It was a rare case when hospitals allowed somebody to do the shooting, but the journalists themselves refused. The shooting arrangement was reached at lightning speed, the very next morning I put on the protective overalls that were given to me and plunged
into the labyrinths of the hospital.
Hospital №31 was one of the many Moscow hospitals that had been renovated and re-equipped for patients diagnosed with covid. Within a week, everyone was refitted, everyone was retrained and changed.
Neither traumatology, nor gynecology, nor cardiology but only one large hospital-"covidnik with astronauts", as they call it now. Doctors recognize each other by eyes and voice. They say that time in the contaminated zone proceeds differently.
The intensive care unit is quiet, light and transparent. One could hear the beeping signals of the equipment and the rustling of the overalls. Everything inside me shrank away at once with pity for the patients, with gratitude to the nurses with delicate figures who turned the patients over.
I recalled lying in bed and being connected to a ventilator. I remember myself corresponding with medical staff through notes, because my mouth was busy with a pipe, how I was afraid to let off this pipe when doctors told me that I could go back to my regular breathe, when my doctor came to me and cried holding my hand, and then I cried with my mom when she was allowed to see me 7 days after.
I did not know what to expect, what to imagine, I had no questions. I wanted to capture a historical moment, a controversial, ambiguous, incomprehensible moment. One thing is clear: people die, doctors give their lives in order to save others. Before my very eyes patients were being resuscitated, before my very eyes they were being intubated and reanimated.
During the pandemic the staff has become accustomed to a new lifestyle, they even joke how they will work without suits on. This profession is indispensable without healthy humor.
I closely followed all the guidelines. I was given the same protective suit, with surgical cotton under it, a respirator, goggles, shoe covers and two pairs of gloves. I do not have frames of leaving the contaminated zone: the camera was quickly packed in a red waste bag. The contaminated dirt was removed stage by stage, according to the instructions. Once each activity was over, hands were to be disinfected. While the equipment was being disinfected, I went to wash myself clean in the shower. Just like everybody does.
The most impressive thing for me was the way patients look at the doctors and the care the doctors expressed towards their patients. It is the doctors who are the first to take us into their own hands, treat, and, acting like parents, they are ready to give their own lives for our sake.
Doctors are heroes, and not only nowadays.
If a building becomes architecture, then it is art
I returned to the hospital for the second time. To take close-ups of the eyes. Just eyes. I really missed them in my whole report. The eyes of doctors are the only thing seen to the patients, and the only thing that their colleague can see. I filmed many eyes. Lots of eyes, plenty of eyes of the doctors and nurses, orderlies and janitors, eyes of those whom we trust our lives, eyes which help doctors recognize each other
and communicate without words.
I did not want to snap any crumples on the face left by the masks or any artsy and "psychological" portraits. The former are tied to the individual, the latter to the photographer. I made portraits before diving into the "dirty zone". Those were just fixed expressions. An open gaze with no constraint, no pressure, the shots were not directed and posed. This is the look of a person who is ready to meet the unknown,
to encounter danger. For me, this is purely a shot of a true character.
The character of heroes.