The Heart of BIDMC
Seeing BIDMC Through the Lens
By Marina Long
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center correspondent
Bruce Wahl, the official photographer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), felt a creative calling from a young age.
“I can’t draw. I was a frustrated artist,” he says.
An artistic streak runs in the family – Bruce’s father was a photographer as well. Bruce pursued his interest in the arts at the Atlanta College of Art in the early 1990s, going on to work in several commercial studios in New York City and Hartford.
In addition to his work for BIDMC, Bruce offers his artistic services as a freelance photographer. Some of his favorite submissions are for IronWorks, a Harley-Davidson publication, which hails itself as a magazine “for serious motorcycle enthusiasts.” And Bruce does look the part; he is, in his own words, “an artist and a connoisseur of adrenaline, the mechanical, and the medieval mind set.”
When Bruce started working at BIDMC 15 years ago, his contributions were mainly behind the scenes.
“Originally, I was just working in the darkroom, doing X-rays and stuff,” he says.
But as time went on, Bruce’s role grew bigger and bigger.
“I photograph at the East and West campus, and at Needham, Chestnut Hill and Milton. And I travel around for events. And I do my own editing. I guess you could say I work a couple of people’s jobs here,” Bruce confesses.
Over the past couple of weeks, Bruce’s work has brought him all around Massachusetts for medical center events. He’s made several visits to Fenway Park, most notably for BIDMC’s latest Red Sox Scholars induction ceremony on June 10.
“The Scholars event was great,” Bruce says. “All these kids, hangin’ on the field with the team.”
Bruce also photographs BIDMC’s featured “Red Sox Medical All-Star” physicians at their worksites.
“These people are at the top, and they’re really appreciative of everyone,” Bruce says. “There’s a lot of team, there’s a lot of family around here.”
Most recently, Bruce photographed Dr. Jennifer Tseng, the new Chief of Surgical Oncology at BIDMC, in one of her pancreatic surgeries.
“During the surgery, you know, it has to be darker,” Bruce says. “But Jennifer’s so kind and happy all the time. I wanted to convey that, even with the dramatic lighting.”
One of Bruce’s photographs shows Jennifer playfully sticking her tongue out at the camera.
“Yeah, that’s a Bruce trademark,” he explains. “That’s a tool I have to loosen people up, to get them to relax. They stick their tongue out, and then they have their real smile on their face.”
“I also get to photograph the Red Sox Babies on the postpartum floors,” Bruce adds. “You can be having the worst day, traffic could be horrible, it’s raining, you’re soaked, whatever. But after three babies, your day is just made.”
Bruce’s job has its cheerful perks working with kids, but he is witness to a lot at BIDMC – the good and the bad.
“It is a hospital, so although there’s a lot of good, it can’t always be,” he says. “So I also go to NICU, and Labor and Delivery, and take family portraits with Mom and Dad and the baby before the little guy passes. I send the pictures to Social Work, and then they go to the families.”
As BIDMC’s all-purpose photographer, Bruce is witness to just about everything that goes on, and recognizes some the hard work that so many outsiders rarely think about.
“When people think of a hospital, they think about doctors and nurses,” Bruce says. “But I’ve seen that there are so many people who don’t get the props they deserve – the person who gets the nurse when they see there’s a problem with a patient, the admin who gets you your appointment ... there are all these people around here who the place really needs to go. There are a lot of unsung heroes.”
In May, Bruce photographed BIDMC nurses for the annual Nursing Awards celebration at Fenway Park. “Nurses have one of the toughest jobs,” Bruce says. “They work these long hours, and the work that they do is amazing. But they have to deal with some pretty horrible stuff.
“There was one nurse,” Bruce recalls. “She did not want her picture taken. So I talked to her, for 30, 40 minutes. We just hung out. And then, look at this …” Bruce points to a beautifully lit, vibrant portrait of a gorgeous, vibrant woman. “I showed it to her, and she said, ‘I look amazing!’ That’s what I love. When I can show people how they really look – their outer beauty, and their inner beauty.”
It’s moments like these remind Bruce what has kept him at BIDMC for so many years.
“It’s a nice place to work. The main goal of the Institution is pretty cool, taking anybody, helping everybody,” Bruce says. “There are other places I’ve worked where it was about business; it wasn’t about the human condition.
"Hopefully at this point, I’ve done some good, too.”
Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
Posted July 2012