The pandemic has been a terrifying event in our lives. Some of us losing loved ones and others their livelihood, the drama streams constantly on our media feeds, leaving most of us feeling helpless. We found ourselves wanting to humanise the story. By getting close, it enabled us to face our own fears. The arts have a place in reclaiming this. The vulnerability of both the patients and healthcare workers needs the nuance of the creative approach to best capture it.

– Sarah Cooper & Nina Gorfer

Sweden-based Hasselblad Ambassadors Cooper & Gorfer embarked on a new piece, Delirium, that embodies the Covid-19 pandemic, capturing the constant struggle of healthcare workers fighting through this historical tragedy. Beautifully reminiscent of the frontlines of an epic Renaissance battle, the soldiers consisting of nurses, doctors, physiotherapists and anaesthesiologists grapple with handling symbolic comatose patients in their quest to save them.


Delirium describes this whole experience – for the nurses, for the patients, but also for us who maybe are just in our own bubble trying to cope with what’s happening in the world.

Left section detail


As healthcare workers across the globe work an immense amount of hours per day, are highly understaffed or perhaps have not been able to take a single day off in close to a year, Cooper & Gorfer wanted to highlight these heroes who carry us through this pandemic. But many nurses and doctors seem to refrain from using this word to describe themselves and, instead, speak about the patient being the hero – that their work is simply a job.

Connecting with Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Mölndal just outside of Gothenburg, Cooper & Gorfer worked closely with members of the Intensive Care Unit tending to Covid cases. “The idea was that we wanted to get all the facets of those who care for patients in a critical Covid situation, so it was a blend of nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, and anaesthesiologists. And we wanted to focus on the women so as to be true to our other bodies of work,” explains Sarah Cooper.

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We wanted the image to have a kind of aethereal feeling to it. I think we resort back to this Renaissance-inspired light, and it is somewhat reminiscent of one of these epic battle scenes in a strange way, with the accentuation of the colours and the blue robes. The colour blue is many times attributed to perhaps something of a holy nature or the colour of kings. There are all these sorts of minor references that play into some of the rhetoric that is used for moments of historical struggle.

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Similar to Cooper & Gorfer’s other works, Delirium was composed in stages. To create a full picture for the artists, they were walked through the different stages of what happens to a Covid patient upon arrival to the hospital. Afterwards, they conducted short interviews with the staff to get a true understanding of their emotions.


The second stage consisted of building up a photo studio at the hospital. Directing their subjects on the spot, they could bring together their vision of this heroic battle. “After the photoshoot, we work as we always do with collaging, taking apart the image, deconstructing and then reconstructing the image, because the feeling that we really wanted to achieve was this continuous struggle. When you look closely at the image, you see that actually some of the subjects are repeating. It’s many moments in time with many moments of their struggle. In total, we actually only photographed 7 care workers,” says Nina Gorfer.

The HC 50mm lens was crucial because we had a very tight space; this was an instance where we had to accommodate the hospital and we had to photograph all of the women in their break time during a one-hour period. We were in a tight room and the HC 50mm enabled us to get all of the women in the picture together without any distortion. And then of course you know we’re using the H6D-100c because of the incredible detail that this camera allows us.


Sarah Cooper (Pittsburgh, USA) and Nina Gorfer (Vienna, Austria) met in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2005 while studying their master, sparking their collaborative work and creative partnership. Gothenburg became their studio – an incubator of ideas. With backgrounds in fine art photography/music production and architecture, respectively, they led different careers before photography became their common base. “We released each other’s creativity, sort of that perfect storm,” says Sarah Cooper. Focusing on female subjects while exploring powerful, political and personal themes, the fine art duo is known for their visually rich collage portraits and free visual language. See more of their work here.

If you have the opportunity to see their latest series in person, Between These Folded Walls, Utopia, it is currently being exhibited at Fotografiska NYC until 7 February 2021. See more info here.

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