As some readers of HEALTHCARE DESIGN might know, we publish a sister publication called DESIGN for Senior Environments, an annual showcase of recent projects in the long-term care field. We have a judging panel for that one, too—and it’s serious business. Panel members are drawn from the Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments (SAGE), which proclaims as its mission the encouragement of resident-centered design in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Entrants who emphasize lavish lobbies, chandeliers, and grand staircases get short shrift. As one juror says almost inevitably every year, “We aren’t just publishing pretty pictures.”

They have another mantra, too: “We want photos that illustrate the design advances the entrants write about. Unfortunately, we’re not seeing them.”

So I had heard it before when this complaint started surfacing during recent sessions of the HEALTHCARE DESIGN jury for this magazine’s September Architectural Showcase issue. Members reading about modern patient rooms and innovative staff respite areas found it frustrating not to be able to see them. In short, here was an area in which a few more “pretty pictures” would have helped.

I have wondered at times why sponsors of health facility projects—visual entities by any definition—don’t always seem to be on the same wavelength as their photographers. There is no question that the photographers are top grade; the photos they do provide are often beautiful, capturing the design elements that make for visual excitement. But it’s the photos they don’t provide that are the problem—the innovations or special features of which the sponsor is justifiably proud but somehow didn’t get around to showing.

I remember when, in a previous life, I worked in the public affairs office of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. There were public relations jobs for which photography was essential, and I was assigned to tag along with some first-rate professionals to make sure that they covered the story we wanted. Observing these careful, meticulous craftsmen/artists at work was boring in the extreme, in all honesty; they took so much time and effort to find and frame just the right shot. But my “sacrifice” proved to be well worth it in the end when we got the shots that told our story.

I have no idea whether this approach is used routinely by the sponsors, architects, and designers who submit projects for publication. May I humbly suggest, in any event, that it be so? Sponsor, if your project has an innovative or unusual aspect to it, let the photographer know about it. Photographer, if something appears visually or conceptually interesting but isn’t on the shot list, ask the sponsor about it. In short, give us all the pretty pictures you can to cover the story.

We promise, we won’t complain. HD