South Island MSA Reads…”Shadows and Light” by Dr. Heather Patterson

Looking for a good book? Here’s one! It’s available for you to borrow from our South Island MSA Lending Library, located in the Doctors’ Lounges at RJH and VGH.

When the pandemic began in March 2020, Calgary emergency physician Heather Patterson was already feeling burnt out. Photography had always been a way of unwinding for her, and as the pandemic gathered speed, Patterson decided to begin chronicling it. Shadows and Light presents a selection of Patterson’s images, taking readers to the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and giving them an illuminating, behind-the-scenes view of the real impact of the virus and the heroic front-line workers who have been fighting it for over two years.


Shadows and Light presents a view of the pandemic few have seen. As a physician and photographer on the front lines of health care, Heather Patterson offers an unvarnished portrait of the pandemic’s toll. She chronicles the fear of the unknown, the exhaustion on the front lines, the mounting cost in human lives, and the painful loss experienced by families. More than this, her lens reveals qualities that sustain us: perseverance, compassion, hope.” — Jane Philpott, MD, CCFP, MPH, PC, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen’s University

“Patterson’s empathy, sincerity, and openness about her own inner conflicts shine through in her sensitive and respectful approach to the most delicate moments. Armed with her extensive medical knowledge and with access to situations which photographers rarely witness, Patterson has delivered an unflinchingly intimate document of one of the most historically significant moments of the 21st century.” — Ian Willms, photojournalist and post-documentary photographer

“Patterson’s images capture the great emotional and physical toll COVID has taken on patients and families and the personal toll taken on the professionals providing care. These intimate moments are heartwarming and heartbreaking, reflecting love and loss, kindness and grace. Shadows and Light reminds us that amongst the daily statistics we have seen about COVID, there is always a human face. This book is a gift to everyone who has worked in health care during the pandemic as well as the many patients and families affected by COVID.” — Sid Viner, MD, FRCPC, Vice President and Medical Director, Clinical Operations, AHS

“An unfiltered look behind the doors of several Canadian hospitals in a worldwide pandemic. Heather Patterson’s beautifully crafted composition, use of light, and ability to see the heart of each moment she encountered is what makes this book so raw and moving. A critical contribution to the visual history of the pandemic.” — Hilary Gauld, One for the Wall Photography

“Of particular relevance to readers with an interest in photography, medicine, and the dedication of nurses, physicians, and hospital staff having to deal with the overwhelming impact of a pandemic the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the 1918 Spanish Flu, Shadows and Light: A Physician’s Lens on COVID is a unique and inherently interesting coffee-table style volume that deftly blends full page black/white photographic images with insightful and compelling commentary — making it unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Contemporary Photography and Pandemic Medical History collections.” — Midwest Book Review

“Within this visual landscape, Patterson focuses on the hands and eyes of staff and patients. These small but eloquent parts of the body convey fear, hope, happiness, exhaustion, sadness and grief. Her photography reveals the emotions roiling beneath the surface of healthcare work during a global catastrophe.” — Alberta Views

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