Photography & Health Care

Bertram Solcher
Bertram Solcher
laif talks to Julia Hauck, Communications Officer at the non-profit Christoph Lohfert Foundation, and laif photographer Bertram Solcher about the foundation's work, the annual Lohfert Prize and the visual implementation of health care topics.

laif: Dear Ms. Hauck, the CHRISTOPH LOHFERT FOUNDATION awards the Lohfert Prize every year. In 2022, the gGmbH “Was hab’ ich?” (What do I have?) won the prize for the project “Patient letters after inpatient stays” in cooperation with the Dresden Heart Center. What is this project about?

Julia Hauck: The CHRISTOPH LOHFERT FOUNDATION is committed to improving patient orientation and patient safety in health care. To this end, we annually award the Lohfert Prize with 20,000 euros in prize money for exemplary projects. These projects, for example, improve communication with patients and empower them, making them more confident and competent in dealing with health issues.

The 2022 award winner, for example, has found an outstanding solution to a problem that we believe should not even exist: Medical discharge letters after a hospital stay are incomprehensible to the majority of patients. Among other things, this has to do with the fact that these letters are intended both to inform the doctors who are continuing the treatment – and that requires the technical terms – and to go to the patients – and that requires a translation of the technical terms that has not actually existed up to now.
“What do I Have?” has developed a system with which layman-understandable letters can be created automatically from the billing codes of the hospitals. Automation means no additional staff time is required. Demonstrably, the patient’s health literacy improved greatly after reading and understanding the diagnosis and treatment. For the independent jury, this was the outstanding work in 2022 and a groundbreaking project for the future.

laif: Every winning project is visually documented by laif photographer Bertram Solcher. Why is that important to you and how do you use the resulting images?

Julia Hauck: It was important to our founder that his support for patient-oriented medicine be underpinned not only professionally but also emotionally. The foundation sees one of its main tasks in explaining the award-winning projects to as broad an audience as possible, and this calm and documentary approach by Bertram Solcher is an important means of conveying this. Pictures explain, pictures stay in the memory, pictures can polarize and pictures can also always make you smile. For us, it is important that our sometimes somewhat unwieldy topics are visually broken down to the essentials – the people.

Julia Hauck

»It was important to our benefactor that his promotion of patient-oriented medicine be underpinned not only professionally but also emotionally.«




laif: Bertram, how do you approach the projects? Do you get a briefing or do you have a free hand in the implementation? Or what are the requirements for you as a photographer?

Bertram Solcher: After the jury has decided, I receive the application documents for the winning project. I can then read up on them, do research, talk to the winners on the phone and develop photo ideas from this information. I then discuss these ideas with the foundation. It’s eye-to-eye communication at every point in the process.
Because of my photographic experience in the health care sector, I can ask quite precise questions on the phone about the spatial situation or the processes on site. Often things turn out differently than expected. My experience helps me there, too. I simply adapt. So far, I have always come back with unusual material. So far, the long leash has always been effective.


Bertram Solcher

»Hardly anyone knows, however, that the stethoscope around the neck is a capital, hygienic faux pas.«


laif: You are not only a photographer, but also a medical doctor. What advantage does that have for your clients?

Bertram Solcher: First of all, I understand the language, and I also speak it. That makes communication easier and builds trust. Then I know the usual procedures and am therefore in a position to give employees a sense of security. I can tell, without being asked, when the photographer no longer fits into the setting. I can see blood, know what not to touch, and don’t walk into an MRI with a camera unchecked. But I also know how to handle intimate situations without becoming voyeuristic or intrusive. I can maintain a professional distance even with a camera and not get into an emotional roller coaster.

laif: In your opinion, where can photography be used even better or in a more targeted way in the health care sector? Or in other words: What can photography do for health care communication?

Bertram Solcher: Corporate photography has only been used in the health care sector for a relatively short time compared to other industries. In Germany, the professional legal framework first had to be adapted to the desire for information. The Americans were already much further ahead and created visual languages for the health care sector. Everyone knows that clinics are bright and bluish and that doctors wear a stethoscope around their necks – we see this in every doctor series and in many microstock photos. I also receive such images from clients on their mood boards. However, hardly anyone knows that the stethoscope around the neck is a capital, hygienic faux pas. Communication in the health care sector is still not very innovative and often reproduces the same stereotypes over and over again. Authentic author photography can do a lot here.