Finding birth, death, pain, and love in emergency departments

Chinese photographer Fan Yulei has spent 4 years on his project “Emergency Department” documenting hospital life. His photos show what happens during around the lock at the local hospital in Xuzhou, China.


Fan is a freelance photographer, and has been hired as a full-time photographer by the local hospital for medical projects shooting. Therefore, he was able to access to patients and caregivers with a camera from very close distance. The result of this independent access was a moving series of photographs featuring the cries and pains, but also the empathy and care inside hospital hallways.

“When every photograph was taken, I had to work closely with the caregivers and the patients. For all the candid momets, I managed to make myself less visible and capture what is happening,” says Fan.

The project aims to explore the daily life inside the emergency rooms, as well as the challenges facing the medical services.

Pointedly, among photos of people in severe trauma, Fan shows a man lying on the operating table with a surgical scissor pointing to his chest. In other photos, Fan shows X-ray machinery which seems to be in constant demand, and a patient being slid into a cylindrical, body-length scanner.

But Fan’s images are also about love and care. Within the hospital, people see birth and death, incredible pain and families coming together – everything that’s most important in life, all the time.

This project is quite meaningful as it give us a second thought about the increasing conflicts between patients and healthcare providers.

“I am always shocked by the miracles that happen in the emergency rooms: People are brought back to life on a regular basis. It was so beautiful and powerful, but for the doctors and nurses it was just another day in their life.” Though hospitals are often understaffed and have to cater to large number of patients, the medical staff are doing the best they can. Every patient is treated with the same care and attention. That’s the principal on which China’s medical services was founded, and the one on which it will endure.

(All photos ©Fan Yulei)

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