2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the RGS-IBG Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group! To celebrate this exciting anniversary, we invited people to submit an image (such as a photograph, drawing or painting) and associated brief description that speaks to the theme of health geography. We are still accepting submissions to our online exhibition and image library. Please follow this link below for more details. The page below feature a selection of the submissions we’ve received over the last year.
COASTAL INDUSTRIAL THERAPEUTIC LANDSCAPES, Rosie Knowles
This image is an ink and watercolour drawing of mine portraying the industrial seafront of Port Talbot, South Wales. It depicts the many swimmers and walkers who use it daily, despite the constant influx of pollution from the vast steelworks. I use drawing as a method and creative practice as part of my auto-ethnographical research in Port Talbot. I am exploring the health geography concept of therapeutic landscapes in relation to this coastal industrial ‘bluespace’. My research consists of personal experiences in the landscape of walking and swimming, documented through story-telling, drawing and print making, along with ethnographic research with a men’s health walking group. This involves walking interviews and drawing upon feminist critical thinking about toxic geographies and toxic masculinity, to explore whether embodied experiences in contaminated landscapes can be therapeutic.
CHANGING IDEAS ON WOMEN’S HEALTH NORMS, Maaret Jokela-Pansini (2020)
In this picture, Eleonora draws her body map during a participatory workshop on women’s reproductive health. She presents societal and political (hetero-normative) gender norms, expectations and traditions as major barriers for women to fully experience their health, and visualises emotions and ways to act upon these challenges. The image speaks to health geographers’ interest in people’s embodied experiences, and responds to highlighting diverse voices to communicate these experiences.
KITCHEN MICROBE SAFARI, Beth Greenhough et al. (2016)
The image is a composite of a series of individual colouring pages participants in our Good Germs, Bad Germs project filled when we asked them to imagine where in their kitchen they might find the greatest diversity and abundance of microbes. This image for me captures the idea of more-than-one health, or the ways in which human health is tied up with the lives and deaths of millions of other living organisms, including the microbes being visualised here. While most immediately associated with poor health, microbes are also essential to human wellbeing, playing a key role in digestion and the development of a health immune system.
REFLECTING ON OTHER-THAN-HUMAN COMPANIONS IN HEALTH ENABLING ENCOUNTERS , Andy Harrod
One aspect of health geography over the last 50 years is the movement away from the spatial relations between people and places, to a focus on the characteristics of place as being active in health-enabling encounters. This memorial bench is along a trail dedicated to the memory of a dog called Silva. Both the bench and the trail resonated with me, as highlighting important components in my own wellbeing practices. These involve companion animals as active family members in co-creating a joyful home. Alongside, taking notice whilst walking and the accompanying benefits of being present. My heartstrings were drawn to the bench, but my eyes caught the reflection, the dry yellow grass, the green tree line, and clear blue sky. For me, this moment captures the complexities of the therapeutic process of walking in green spaces, as various aspects enhanced, but also unsettled my feeling of being well. My wellbeing was enhanced through the activity of walking slowly, noticing dry seed heads, enjoying the quiet, and appreciating the dedication of love to Silva. However, it was unsettled through my own memories of loss, and of the yellowing grass – an indication of the climate crisis. As health geographers explore people’s experiences of place, we are presenting relational accounts of how health enabling encounters are co-created through human and other-than-human nature, which flux depending on the assemblages present. There are no intrinsic givens to an encounter with a place, but a series of affective moments with a range of actants.
MORE-THAN-HUMAN HOPE IN 2022, Sarah Bell (2022)
I took this image on the Friday evening after attending the 2022 International Medical Geography Symposium (IMGS) in Edinburgh. Against the challenging backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and an increasingly corrosive political context, IMGS offered rare moments of hope for change. I hadn’t really digested those moments with the intensity of the conference, but joining the chattering ducks and geese as the sun set over the Alnmouth estuary, I dared to hope that the world could be otherwise. Finding solace in nature’s temporal cycles may well be a cliché – and may not resonate for all – but this picture speaks to the theme of health geography for me in capturing a fleeting therapeutic encounter at the interface of land, sea and sky.
MAINE CHILDHOOD, Lora E. Fleming
This is a photo of my daughter as a young child (she is now a geoscientist in her 30s!) at a wonderful place near Bath Maine US. She grew up in the city of Miami but every summer we would come to Maine and she would be free to play and explore the island. This had such an impact on her well-being and imagination that even though she has lived in and travelled to many places, she has now settled in Maine as her home! For me the photo is an iconic reminder of how people and nature are inter-related in joy as well as destruction; and how we need to provide opportunities for everyone to experience this joy as well as conserve our natural environments!
(UN)FORBIDDEN GARDENS, Zeinab Sattari N. (2022)
This image, which I took during the International Medical Geography Symposium in 2022, shows a direction towards a public garden in Dunkeld town in Scotland. On the way to this town, I passed through the city of Edinburgh, where there were beautiful large patches of trees in from of houses and in the middle of squares. I thought this should have increased the health and happiness of the residents and commuters by access to the gardens. However, I was surprisingly informed that these gardens are mostly fenced and owned privately! That made me a bit disappointed and imagined people passing by the fence on the way to work/school and having no chance to walk through the garden or sit under a tree and enjoy life. After an hour on the bus from Edinburgh, seeing the open garden in Dunkeld made my day!
A CARIBBEAN BREAKFAST BUFFET, Gabrielle Guy (2015)
This image speaks to geographies of health and wellbeing in a regional and ‘local’ context. It captures culturally relevant foods that contribute to good health and wellbeing. On the table are colourful and textured fruits grown in Trinidad and Tobago, where this image was taken. There is orange papaya and yellow fleshed pineapple. According to nutritional guidelines, the freshly cooked fish and portion of bread presents a balance of carbohydrate, protein, alongside vitamins from fruits for good sustenance. While the current political conversations around Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) incidence are negative and locate blame, the practice of culturally relevant good ‘health/eating habits’ as shown in this image, are rendered invisible. Within my PhD research, I am aiming to locate culturally relevant practices in family food contexts over the past 50 years in an under researched context. My intentions are twofold. First, to open the possibility for relevant Caribbean food contexts to be acknowledged as strengthening health/wellbeing, and two, to enrich the discipline of health/wellbeing geography more broadly.
WALKING INTERVIEW WITH AN OLDER ADULT ON THE MARKET, Louise Meijering
For me, this image represents health geography and my work in the field, especially with frail older adults. It shows one of our research participants during an in-situ interview. She likes to go and shop at the market near her house on designated market days. Using a walker, she struggles to get over the electricity cables that are scattered on the ground to and from the market stalls and is afraid she might fall and break her hip (again). However, when discussing this with her, she told us her fear is mitigated by the fact that there are always friendly people around who help her overcome obstacles such as the cables. Thus, the image illustrates how the physical and social environment are interlinked in the everyday lives of older adults, and how difficulties in the one can be overcome by enablers in the other.