When the pandemic began in March 2020, Calgary emergency physician Heather Patterson was already feeling burnt out. Photography had always been a way of unwinding for her, and as the pandemic gathered speed, Patterson decided to begin chronicling it. Shadows and Light presents a selection of Patterson’s images, taking readers to the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and giving them an illuminating, behind-the-scenes view of the real impact of the virus and the heroic front-line workers who have been fighting it for over two years.

Patterson’s expert lens gives incredible insight into the life of healthcare workers — physicians, nurses, and hospital support staff — during the pandemic, and what patients experience when hospitalized with COVID. Yet, amid the isolation of lockdowns and a seemingly never-ending cycle of new restrictions associated with new variants, Patterson finds hope and a renewed sense of purpose in the resilience of the human spirit and the inspiring fortitude of Canada’s often invisible pandemic heroes.


A view of the pandemic few have seen. As a physician and photographer on the frontlines of healthcare, Heather Patterson offers an unvarnished portrait of the pandemic’s toll. She chronicles the fear of the unknown, the exhaustion on the frontlines, the mounting cost in human lives, and the painful loss experienced by families. More than this, her lens reveals qualities that sustain us: perseverance, compassion, hope.

Jane Philpott - Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen’s University



To photograph the suffering of others is an inherently imbalanced process. The recontextualization of someone’s likeness in what is likely to be their most vulnerable moment automatically imposes a daunting responsibility upon the photographer. Most photographers don’t realize this and end up producing work that stigmatizes, victimizes, and exploits subjects. If this trend is the sickness, storytellers like Dr. Patterson are the cure.

Dr. Patterson’s empathy, sincerity, and openness about her own inner conflicts shine through in her sensitive, respectful approach to the most delicate moments. Armed with her extensive medical knowledge and with access to situations which photographers rarely witness, Dr. Patterson has delivered an unflinchingly intimate document of one of the most historically significant moments of the 21st century.

Everyone should read this book. Not only is it an essential education for socially concerned photographers, it also lays bare the life and death importance of vaccines and healthcare professionals. The stories are unbelievable, but the photos make them real — together they are undeniable. These are real people, real lives, real deaths; not statistics or political talking points. If ever there were something more salient than the truth, it could be the safeguarding of life. Dr. Patterson offers us both.

Ian Willms - Photojournalist and Post-Documentary Photographer


An unfiltered look behind the doors of a Canadian hospital in a worldwide pandemic.  Heather Patterson’s beautifully crafted composition, use of light, and her ability to see the heart of each moment she encountered is what makes this book so raw and moving. A critical contribution to the visual history of the pandemic. 

Hilary Gauld - One for the Wall Photography



Patterson’s images capture the great emotional and physical toll COVID has taken on patients and families and the personal toll taken on the professionals providing care. These intimate moments are heartwarming and heart breaking, reflecting love and loss, kindness, and grace. Shadows and Light reminds us that amongst the daily statistics we have seen about COVID, there is always a human face. This book is a gift to everyone who has worked in healthcare during the pandemic as well as the many patients and families affected by COVID.

Sid Viner - MD, FRCPC, Vice President and Medical Director, Clinical Operations, Alberta Health Services