Chen Xiaolu, who helped fight the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province, poses with her cellphone showing a photo of her working in hospitals in the city. Volunteer photographers took a photo of each of the 42,000-plus medical workers from around the country who came to the aid of the hard-hit province. (Photo source: CHINA DAILY/LI GE)
While they were busy treating COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, their faces were hardly recognizable under surgical masks and goggles.
In order to have a record of all the 42,000-plus medical workers who risked their lives to come to the aid of Hubei, the region of China hardest hit by the epidemic, a group of volunteer photographers undertook the massive project of taking a photograph of each one.
Behind the photos are individuals with touching stories of helping save patients and a strong sense of responsibility and dedication to their work, said Li Ge, chairman of the China Photographers Association and leader of the volunteer photographers.
"The public, patients and even their colleagues could not see the faces of the medical workers as they were wearing masks all the time. We want to use our cameras to record the faces behind the masks so that all of us can remember who they are," he said in an interview on Monday in Wuhan.
More than 42,000 medical workers around the country came to Hubei to work shoulder by shoulder with their local peers in battling COVID-19. The last medical team left the province on Wednesday as the number of remaining COVID-19 patients dropped below 150.
For the project, Li and other four photographers from the association left Beijing and arrived in Wuhan on Feb 20 to start work the next day. At the beginning, they took the photos in hospitals when the medical workers' shifts ended in order not to disturb their work.
"In the early days, there was not enough protective equipment, which had to be reserved for medical workers, so we went to the hospitals only wearing masks," Li said. "We did feel worried and nervous about our safety, yet as long as we started taking pictures, those feelings were quickly forgotten."
Each photographer spent 10 to 12 hours every day at the hospital, but could only take 80 to 90 photos a day. To speed up the progress, the association asked for more photographers to voluntarily join the team.
The call was answered by around 60 photographers from the Hubei Photographers Association, Henan Photographers Association, photojournalists from other media organizations and photography enthusiasts among the medical teams. With the help of the central government work group in Hubei, photographers were later allowed access to medical workers' hotels, which also helped accelerate the process, Li said.
Photographers finished the entire project in about a month, which means that they took about 1,400 photos every day.
Wen Fan, one of the doctors in a medical team from Shanghai, said two photographers from Hubei Photographers Association took photos of all the 146 medical workers on the team on March 10.（By Zou Shuo in Wuhan）