Lens us a hand kids at the Children’s Hospital, Sheffield

In focus: Andrew Conroy, left, and Thomas Mann  at the Children's Hospital, in Sheffield
In focus: Andrew Conroy, left, and Thomas Mann at the Children's Hospital, in Sheffield
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THE main problem, notes artist Andrew Conroy, was getting the cameras back off the children.

“It was like they forgot where they were,” he says. “They were walking round at the end of the day with thousand yard stares still looking for picture opportunities.”

Where they were was the Children’s Hospital, Sheffield.

And these stunning photos are the result of what happened when Andrew and arts partner Thomas Mann gave 30 patients cameras and asked them to snap their surroundings.

In other words, they form the first ever picture collection showing the world-renowned hospital through the eyes of youngsters being treated there.

Beds, food, medical records and (perhaps most importantly) toys are all included. And they are all included in vast swathes of colour.

Now 70 of the images – collectively titled Look Again – have gone on display in the hospital’s very own exhibition space, The Long Gallery.

“It’s a child eye’s view of the hospital,” says Andrew, 39, of Madehurst Rise, Heeley. “The hustle and bustle often means smaller details go unnoticed but the aim of this was to use close-ups to really bring the colours, textures and patterns of the place out.

“We gave the children a basic brief – keep it simple – and they took it from there. Professional photographers have already documented what goes on at the hospital but this captures a completely different, minimal side to life there. It’s about the feeling which the place gives.”

The project was carried out over five days earlier this summer.

Artfelt, the charity which commissions art projects in the hospital, asked the pair in after seeing work they’d previously done with youngsters in schools.

“We took 25 cameras, rooted ourselves in the play area, and waited for children to show an interest in us,” says Andrew, who also curates at Bank Street Arts in the city centre.

It didn’t take long. Youngsters of all ages and in the hospital for all reasons quickly became intrigued and asked to be involved.

“They didn’t really talk about why they were there and we didn’t ask,” says Thomas, 26, of Herringthorpe Lane, Rotherham.

“They were just concentrating on getting their pictures right.

“Most had experienced taking photos before – on their phones or parents’ cameras – but most had never thought to take pictures of everyday things.

“We told them to use their imaginations.

“One of the most rewarding things was when a parent came up afterwards and said thanks to us the family was now doing their own photo project over the summer. That was lovely.”

And the pictures themselves aren’t bad.

“Because their minimalist, they do look like they could have been done by a professional,” says Thomas.

“They’ve blown us away.

“They could easily be shown in another gallery after this exhibition ends.”

Look Again runs at The Children’s Hospital’s Long Gallery until January 2013. For more details visit www.tchc.org.uk/artfelt