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At the heart of general practice since 1960

My life as a GP photographer

GP and leading clinical photographer Dr Mike Wyndham introduces a selection of the winners of the Institute of Medical Illustrators 2009 awards – and describes how his own passion for taking clinical pictures developed.

GP and leading clinical photographer Dr Mike Wyndham introduces a selection of the winners of the Institute of Medical Illustrators 2009 awards – and describes how his own passion for taking clinical pictures developed.



Aren't they great pix? That's photographer speak for pictures, by the way. Well lit, sharp focus, great colour, exquisite detail and an absence of distracting backgrounds, so congratulations to the winners of such a prestigious award.

Life can take you down strange pathways and looking back is often a mix of happiness and sadness. But photography has always been a happy experience for me – except on occasion in the old days of using film, when the images turned out to be utterly dire and I had to rely on my memory.

It's hard to know how you develop a passion for something, but I was always interested in pictures as a child and tended to hate books that just contained solid print. I loved comics such as the Beano and Dandy. I looked on a camera as a luxury when I was younger. I became very fond of my Kodak Instamatic and thought the pictures I took were great – it's amazing how deluded one could be!

By the time I qualified, departments of medical illustration were well established and I was astonished at the quality of the work they produced. This was the gold standard I wanted to achieve.

Shortly after becoming a GP, I entered a competition in a general practice magazine and was fortunate to win second prize – a serious beast of a 35mm SLR camera. I already had a camera to use at home so I decided to keep this one at the surgery – now I had an opportunity to emulate those medical photographer colleagues.



At that time, one of the GP weeklies ran a picture feature where GPs were invited to send in their images taken in their surgeries.

So in 1983 – using my new camera – I had my first clinical picture published, a really large umbilical hernia.



The fact that someone actually liked my work gave me the incentive to send in more images and within a couple of months one of the clinical editors asked me to contribute on a regular basis.

I'm my own biggest critic and when I look back at my early work I realise all the deficiencies. I would certainly have scored badly for all the qualities I mentioned before – focus, detail, lighting and so on.

The challenge, of course, was to improve, and so it was off to photographic courses, but learning from your mistakes is ultimately the best way to develop a skill.

And when I started teaching I found my pictures were a great medium for learning – particularly in visual areas such as dermatology. I continue to use them today on the GP training scheme that I'm involved with, as well as with fourth-year medical students.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of patients. It's essential that their consent is obtained before using their images.

It is not within the scope of this article to detail all the requirements but they are clearly outlined in advice from the GMC – got to www.gmc-uk.org and search for ‘visual and audio records'.



Good luck to all those considering taking up medical photography and to those entering Pulse's clinical picture competition (see box, right).

And I hope you enjoy the Institute of Medical Illustrators gold award winners as much as I did.

As you'll see, they are all from medical illustration departments but the institute is keen to get more input from primary care. So start recording the interesting cases we all see as GPs and maybe you'll be an IMI winner one day.



A 47-year-old male with anterior uveitis with posterior synaechiae. Taken by Christopher J Tetley from the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board Anterior uveitis with posterior synaechiae A 55-year-old male with fibroelastoma on the aortic valve. Taken by Christopher J Tetley from the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board A 55-year-old male with fibroelastoma on the aortic valve An 11-year-old boy with post-traumatic right foot deformity. Pre-operative assessment to release scar contracture on dorsum. Taken by Abbey Staplehurst from the Media Studio, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge An 11-year-old boy with post-traumatic right foot deformity A 39-year-old female with complex multi-loculated ganglion associated with flexor carpi radialis/fat atrophy (dermal thinning) following steroid injection. Taken by Mick Wigglesworth from the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust A 39-year-old female with complex multi-loculated ganglion associated with flexor carpi radialis/fat atrophy (dermal thinning) following steroid injection A 76-year-old male with confirmed diagnosis of Dupuytren's contracture. Taken by Melvin Bond from the mediccal photography and illustration department at East and North Herts NHS Trust A 76-year-old male with confirmed diagnosis of Dupuytren's contracture A clinically palpable stone removed from the urethra of a middle-aged man with urine retention. Taken by Claire Thomspon from Perth Royal Infirmary. Image available from Wellcome Images A clinically palpable stone removed from the urethra of a middle-aged man with urine retention See all the winners

To learn more about the IMI and to see all the winners go to www.imi.org.uk.

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