It has been almost three years since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 virus outbreak a global pandemic. Coinciding with this milestone, Linda Alterwitz (@lindaalterwitz) has released a photobook to accompany her project Injection Site - Making the Vaccine Visible.
This global health crisis has caused millions of tragic deaths worldwide, halted international travel with the sudden closure of many countries' borders and pushed even our most advanced healthcare systems to their absolute limits. It is fair to say that since its appearance in early 2020 the impacts of COVID-19 have been virtually inescapable.
Amid debilitating lockdowns and economic uncertainty, the first signs of hope arrived in 2021 with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines at a pace never seen before in the history of medicine. This unprecedented scientific feat quickly became a contentious issue in the public sphere, dividing opinion and sparking fierce debate.
It is this disunity that inspired Linda to address the subject of COVID-19 vaccines from an unbiased and evidential point of view and create a space for conversation that is inclusive of everyone despite differences in opinion.
In Injection Site Linda offers her audience a new mode of seeing. Through the use of thermal imaging technology she unlocks a previously unseen view of the physiological effects of the COVID-19 vaccine on the human body.
Using a high-resolution thermal imaging camera she captures the body's reaction to the vaccine. In the early stages of the vaccine rollout, Linda photographed the arms of 130 participants at the site of their injection. She explains, "The resulting photographs reveal each participant's unique immunological response to the injection, tracking the degree of physical reaction to the virus in a way that corresponds to their individual physiology. The images document each subjects' unique response, with darker areas in the photograph representing heat and inflammation. Some photographs reveal more heat radiating and spreading through an arm, while others reveal minimal visual heat."
Ghostly figures are mottled with dark blotches indicating the heat as it seeps from the site of the injection into the body, each taking its own course. Her dreamy, black and white images reveal the invisible world taking place under the skin of people as they receive their first vaccine shots.
Medicine has been a theme featuring in much of her artistic career. Her well-considered, scientific approach to storytelling and image-making gives her a novel perspective and a powerful voice on the topic of the vaccine program. She expertly bridges the connection between art and science; her inherent ability to meld these two elements is evident in her informational style of photography.
Linda very consciously uses the human body as a vessel for her message. By maintaining a close frame, capturing only the upper body of the participants and concealing their faces, she creates a portrait of the vaccine rather than of the individual - an ode to her scientific method. This consistency through the series resonates with the impartial nature of her project and sets the tone of this concise yet visceral body of work.
Linda manages to traverse this contentious subject with great delicacy, remaining neutral and unbiased. She explains, "It's important to me that whether the subject believes in the vaccine's benefits or malevolence, my intention is that this series of photographs ignite conversation and inspire the viewer to pause, consider the actions and feelings of others, and strive toward a united front that will help to strengthen and preserve the health and well-being of humanity."
Linda recognises how vital the role of community is in a time of crisis. Her project aims to bring awareness while also incite a sense of connection, cooperation and responsibility to come together for the health of ourselves, our loved ones and the world.
My use of science and thermal technology addresses the vaccine conundrum in hopes of producing empathy and understanding as individuals balance personal choice versus public health.
The Injection site: Making the Vaccine Visible book will be released in February and is available to pre-order now on her website. It is a Limited Special Edition hardcover book of only 100 copies and include a signed and editioned archival print comprising of 90 photographs replicating the art piece that will be presented at her up and coming exhibition at the Front Door Gallery, University of Nevada, Reno, from March 1 to May 15, 2023.
Linda Alterwitz (@lindaalterwitz) is a visual artist based in Nevada, USA. Her practise utilises photography, collage, and interactive methods. She has exhibited her work in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Spain, Israel and Poland. Linda also established the 'Art + Science' column in Lenscratch Magazine to promote the rich interconnectivity of the arts & sciences, which she continues to this day. To see more of her work check out her website.