Sister of Mercy

Once upon a time, I did a lot of work at Mercy Hospital. It was long before there were HIPAA Laws and long before UPMC took over. Back then the Sister’s of Mercy ran the hospital.

On one assignment I was given the freedom just to wander, explore and see what pictures I could find. Sometimes I would stroll the halls and floors, and sometimes I would have a target person, like the Sister here. 

I followed the Nun on her rounds visiting patients. Before I made pictures, one of us would explain to the patient what I was doing. Most times nobody cared because I was working for the Sisters of Mercy. If I got the green light, I would just disappear into the background and watch for interactions. I wanted moments of tenderness and connection. I remember it was effortless with this Sister as she had a way to connect with everyone. She would talk and pray with the patients, as she is here. 

The most challenging task was to find a clean and powerful composition. In this room, I positioned myself to use the vertical lines in the curtain and the bar on the bed as compositional aids. The cross she wore was the perfect counterpoint to these lines and provided the first triangle of the image. As she leaned forward, she gently touched the woman’s head. With my second and third triangle now complete, I squeezed off a frame with my Leica M3 and 50mm lens. 

Early on I learned to work a scene hard. I was taught to shoot different angles, use all my lenses, and adjust composition. Give the editor choice. On this job, I followed those rules if it made sense. In this situation, it did not. I needed to be quiet and not disturb the scene. So, I picked my angle, my lens, and waited for the right frame to appear, one to show the love and humanity of this beautiful Sister of Mercy.

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