Photos from Almanas’s Medical Interior series
include (from top to bottom): Laundry-bin (2005),
Light-box II (2005), and Glassware (2007).
A Dose of Reality
A young photographer explores the view from the hospital bed.
This issue of Metropolis includes several stories on health-care products and
facilities. Admirably, the designers working in this industry are trying their best
to improve the patient experience—and yet sometimes the hypothetical patient
starts to become a bit fuzzy, an abstract “user” whose predictable needs can be
met by colorful curtains, plentiful daylight, or a few more ergonomic devices.
Kathryn Parker Almanas’s recent series of photographs, Medical Interior,
is a potent reminder of just how existentially unnerving a hospital stay can be.
The 26-year-old artist says her aim was to consider medicine as an entity that is
both comforting and threatening, but there is little in the way of comfort here. In
one photo, a bare light box for viewing X-rays is like a beacon of dread. In others
it is hard to know what is more unsettling: the cold, clinical spaces or the
occasional fissures in the sterile veneer (test tubes capped in wrinkled tinfoil,
a clouded glass beaker stained by dark liquid).
Last year, Almanas earned an M.F.A. in photography from Yale University, and
she was recently included in 25 Under 25: Up-and-Coming American Photographers, Volume 2 (powerHouse Books). Her choice of subject matter was partially
the result of her own battles with a life-threatening illness, but she is quick to
dismiss any sort of autobiographical reading of the series. “I never wanted it
to be self-pitying, or about me,” she says. “I wanted to open it up to be something
more universal, something that we could all experience.” —Mason Currey T