Photos of nurses by portrait photographer Cedric Matet are on display in the town of Montpellier, in France, until March 21. The exhibition "Behind the Masks" shines the spotlight on Covid-19 teams at the Montpellier University Hospital.
Eyes. Faces. Without masks. Photographer Cédric Matet produced this series of portraits of hospital staff to pay tribute to all these women and men who fought against the pandemic and who continue to fight to save lives today.
A powerful sense of dignity
No big smiles, no fancy poses. Members of the nursing staff are shown in their white hospital smocks, and gaze calmly into the lens. Their eyes say it all. The eyes don't lie. Some seem at peace, while others seem exhausted from all the intense months spent fighting the disease. But all of them exude a powerful sense of dignity.
Cédric Matet set up his makeshift photo studio in the hospital's nerve center. 200 faces passed in front of his lens. "I staged them in a very simple way, so as to reveal what they are. What my eyes saw: an army, a collectivity, a team, a beauty that speaks to the commitment and professionalism of these and men and women," he says.
Faces behind the numbers
Next to each photo, the nurses share their love of the profession, their concerns, their doubts. "We're scared, and that's very unusual, you know, for those of us in intensive care; we see it all, often the worst there is to see; you have to be tough to work here. We're scared because we don't know the enemy, we're scared because we don't have the benefit of hindsight on this epidemic yet, and because even so, we have to react quickly, with very little time to hesitate," confides a nurse from the ICU during the early months of the pandemic.
In some of those eyes, we can see that these nurses have not come out of this crisis unscathed. Some of them don't accept the title of "hero." "This epidemic perfectly illustrates what it is that we do, our commitment, but also the things that are wrong with the hospital," says one of the nurses.
In any case, this series of portraits pays tribute to those who lost track of their hours on the job, who sacrificed themselves all over the world to save lives. Their faces float in the city center of Montpellier, are on display in the streets, as if to remind us that behind the walls of hospitals, there are human beings who fight every day for the wellbeing of us all. Behind the figures and the statistics are people who continue to watch over us.
By Michaël Naulin
Michaël Naulin is a journalist. Having worked for regional and national press, he is above all passionate about photography and, more specifically, about photo reporting.