A 1: Exam submission

1. Introduction

Title: ‘A tax on illness.’

Subtitle: Portraits of people with cancer, or their carers, who have views about car parking fees at NHS hospitals in England.

Short summary: Car parking fees for people with cancer, and their families, has been branded as a “tax on the sick.” The cancer charity MacMillan have a campaign for NHS parking to be free or reduced, as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These portraits and stories show and voice their experiences and feelings about this issue.

Topic or theme – why? My daughter has cancer and has been in hospital for a few months; we pay a lot of hospital parking fees. This has sensitised me to this issue. What do other people think about this, and is it just?

Intention: To produce a series of portraits of ‘strangers’ with or affected by someone they love who has cancer that illustrate their views about hospital parking.

Audience: OCA, personal and local social media, McMillan charity.

Approach and methods– technical, experiments, collaboration, management: Recruitment was through local and national social media (Facebook, Twitter, personal databases) and email via my personal photographic website morris-gallagher.format.com which carried an advert for this project. I negotiated the interview and shoot by phone or email. Most people were happy to be seen at home but one person elected to meet in a local cafe. I interviewed the person or people and took images using natural light. I used a money signifier in some images, but there are other signs in most images.  I sent each participant a copy of the interview text and preliminary diptychs which I used to present text and image (respondent validation).

I used diptychs as I though that the voices of the people were as important as the portraits and wanted to give image and text equal weight.

Access, consent, confidentiality, legal: All participants consented to their stories and images being put into the public domain.

Presentation, publicity, social media piece: OCA, Low Fell Local Facebook page, Twitter feed, participants, McMillan charity.

What is the images purpose? To give patients with cancer and their carers a voice about hospital car parking fees in England.

Theoretical underpinnings: My personal beliefs about social justice and Marxist theory is applicable here where the monetisation of the illness experience feeds into the means of production and controlling ideologies of health (D’Alleva, 2013).

Photographic influences: My approach is related to that of Martin Parr and Eric Kim where story telling is the purpose of the imaging (Parr, 2016; Kim, 2016).


Macmillan (2012). Out of order: the hidden cost of hospital parking. http://www.macmillan.org.uk/documents/getinvolved/campaigns/hospitalcarparking/hospital-parking-charges-reportb-2013.pdf.

BBC (2012). “NHS hospital parking fee rises criticised. .” Retrieved 1st August, 2016, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17394126.

Massey, R. (2016). NHS’s £350 parking goldmine: Trusts collect average of £950,000 each in the past three years which receiving £2.8m in fines. Daily Mail. Mail Online, dailymail.co.uk. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3653594/NHS-s-350m-parking-goldmine-Trusts-collect-average-950-000-past-three-years-receiving-2-8m-fines.html.

Parr, M. (2016). “The Rhubarb Triangle.” Martin Parr. Retrieved Ist August, 2016, from http://www.martinparr.com/recent-work/recent-work-2/.

Kim, E. (2016). Street Photography 102. http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2016/04/04/street-photography-102/. Eric Kim Photography.

D’Alleva, A. (2013). Methods and Theories of Art History. London, Laurence King Publishing.

2. Commentary and reflections

My time on the shoots was spent having cups of coffee, listening to people and asking questions. I have heard similar stories before but am always impressed by the variety and intensity of responses when people talk about serious illness.

I used a Nikon D810 with a 50mm  lens with natural light and settled on a depth of field of f8-10 to ensure that enough of the background was in focus to provide context – their chosen environment. The one exception was ‘Josh’ where I used a 24mm lens with flash as we were in a confined space. I made contemporaneous notes in my diary and took photographs. Originally I overtly included money or parking tickets in the frame but ended up looking contrived which is was – I removed these in this final series. By the time I got to Josh, I was clear what I was doing in the frame which I think shows.

Most of the time natural light was effective and I experimented with fill flash. I could have used more with ‘Maureen’ where there was a very bright background. This would have given me more choice of images although adjusting the images for differential exposure in Photoshop was not difficult.

The interviewees talked about the financial and emotional cost of cancer. I decided early on that the text was very important to the project. The issue was how much to use and how.  I experimented diptychs of image and text, but after feedback from OCA colleagues and my tutor elected for a much simpler presentation.

I approached this project from the point of view of parking fees for cancer patients is an injustice. I still think that it is but the debate and people’s views are more nuanced.

3. Portraits

These are double diptych prints which are in the assessment box.

3.1 and 3.2 Lynda and Karen

Final diptychs A 1 print 1 Karen and Lynda


Lynda is a retired nurse and talked about her experience of dashing to the hospital with her ill father.


I met Karen through a contact on social media. We met a local supermarket cafe where she talked about her father who died of stomach cancer.

3.3 and 3.4 Sue and Maureen

Maurren and sue


Sue had cervical cancer and wanted to talk about her experiences of having the condition so that others could recognise the early symptoms.


Maureen had just completed surgery then chemotherapy for anal cancer. I met her in her home where she was in pain and had to sit on a soft ring. She wanted people to know about her rare form of cancer.


3.5 Josh

Josh 2

Joshua is preparing to visit his sister Rosie in isolation, in hospital, where she is having chemotherapy for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He has travelled from Japan to be tested to see if his is a potential stem-cell donor for his sister.

These are now on my personal website morris-gallagher.format.com