All our working lives
“[Q]uestions about solidarity and what binds people together need to be at the forefront of our work of rethinking and reimagining society in an era of super-diversity” — Nandon Sigona1
I spent the first half of 2016 as the Photographer in Residence at University College London Hospital, one of London's largest and busiest hospitals right in the heart of the city. Commissioned by the hospitals’ arts trust, UCLH Arts & Heritage, my brief was to produce a series of staff portraits “that celebrates the diversity and cultural heritage” of the hospital’s workforce.
On researching diversity and cultural identity in preparation for this project, I came across the work of Steven Vertovec and his ideas on “super-diversity”2, which describe how Britain, and London in particular, has moved from being seen as multicultural to being super-diverse, characterised by multiple ethnicities and cultures, each one itself made up of peoples with diverse backgrounds, differing socio-economic statuses, and ages. A “diversification of diversity” to use Vertovec’s phrase3.
Whilst many, including myself, see the benefits such a rich mix brings, care is needed as immigration is of course a highly politicised issue. What interests me most about Vertovec’s notion is that in such a super-diverse society, with so many identities to negotiate, difference has become commonplace, and so a new concern has arisen: the possibility that focusing attention on what makes us different could lead to an atomisation, and in the extreme to the annihilation, of society1.
In recognition of this, my work aimed to produce images that both acknowledge the many differences inherent in the hospital’s workforce but more importantly emphasises the aspects of working in healthcare that are universal — dedication, love, commitment, care — as I believe these are the things that bind people together and foster a sense of solidarity and unity.
All our working lives won the Highly Commended accolade in the Best Collaborative Arts Project section of the 2017 Building Better Healthcare Awards.
1. Sigona, Nando. 2014. What future for diversity research? Available at: https://nandosigona.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/what-future-for-diversity-research/ (Accessed: 20 December 2015).
2. Vertovec, Steven. 2014. ‘Reading “Super-Diversity”’, in Anderson, B. and Keith, M. (eds.) Migration: A COMPAS Anthology. Oxford: COMPAS. 3. Vertovec, Steven. 2007: p. 1025. ‘Super-diversity & its implications’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6), pp. 1024–1025.