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Shadows and Light

“It was the night I lost a patient who I thought would survive and shared a terminal diagnosis with a man not much older than myself. I hadn’t stopped to eat, drink, or use the bathroom in over eight hours, and by the end I was exhausted. It was a difficult night but not unusual except for one thing: I felt nothing. I struggled to rally the passion I had once felt as an emergency physician. I wondered how long I could continue.”

A doctor in full PPE gear leans against a doorframe, looking in on a patient in the ICU.

Heather Patterson was already burnt out working as an emergency physician, and then COVID-19 hit her Calgary emergency room. Thrust into ground zero of a global crisis, Patterson began to chronicle what she saw, photographing her colleagues and patients to show the real impact of the pandemic.

A hospital ER is bustling with activity. In the center of the chaos, several doctors and nurses attend to a patient on a gurney.

A narrow hospital hallway is packed tight with hospital personnel and visitors. Along the right wall is a long line of patients on gurneys.

Shadows and Light takes readers to the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and gives an illuminating, behind-the-scenes view of the real impact of the virus and the heroic front-line workers who have been fighting it.

A child, perhaps middle-school aged, holds their left fist in the air as a hospital attendant swabs their upper right arm, preparing for an injection.

From the first outbreaks to the hope created by the invention of the vaccine and into the tumult of new waves of the virus, Patterson’s photos are a crucial reminder of what we cannot afford to forget.

An elderly man on a ventilator lies in a hospital bed, eyes closed, in a hospital gown. An elderly woman in full PPE gear stands to the right of the bed, holding his arm.

A young child lies sleeping in a hospital bed with a teddy bear. A woman holding a baby sits in a window seat, looking out on the hospital room.

On October 14th, in partnership with the Calgary Health Foundation, Heather Patterson was joined by several hundred people at the Pioneer in Calgary for a sold-out book launch to celebrate the release of Shadows and Light. The launch featured a conversation between Heather Patterson and David Gray as well as a gallery exhibition of photographs from the book.

If you missed hearing Patterson at the launch, she recently appeared on CBC‘s The Current with Matt Galloway, was interviewed by CBC Calgary, and Global News.

Shadows and Light is available now at and at your local bookstore.

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