News and Opinions  –  2018

Hygiene, water and bacteria – exhibition with award winning photographers and Otto Cars as expert

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The Swedish award-winning photographers Paul Hansen and Åsa Sjöström take on the threat of multiresistant bacteria in the new exhibition "Hand to Hand" at Fotografiska, a well-renowned museum in Sweden. "These images are not confined by countries or nationality for the simple reason that diseases and bacteria do not know any borders," says Paul Hansen in a press release. Otto Cars, ReAct is included in the exhibition as an expert on infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance.

Åsa Sjöström photographed children at a school in England. The children were fascinated when they could see the bacteria on their hands while holding them into a box with UV light.

Fotografiska, a well-renowned museum of photography in Stockholm, Sweden, opens an exhibition about hygiene, health and antibiotic resistance. The award-winning and respected photojournalist, Paul Hansen, is exhibiting photographic narratives from different parts of the world that all relate to the vital need for access to hygiene and water. The award-winning documentary photographer Åsa Sjöström has followed a school in England as part of a large hygiene project to support children’s personal hygiene and better toilet environments.

“The photographs are stories from around the world, including Sweden as well as developing countries, where we all – to varying degrees – face the same challenges. Whether it is about disinfecting your hands in a Swedish hospital or ensuring that people in vulnerable parts of the world have access to clean water”, says Paul Hansen.

Photojournalist Paul Hansen capturing children in Afghanistan getting water from a wellbore.

Otto Cars, founder of ReAct and Senior Professor of Infectious Diseases at Uppsala University has spent more than 20 years fighting multidrug resistance. Since 2017, he has been one of the experts in the UN ’s group on antibiotic resistance. As part of this exhibition, he has contributed reflections on antibiotic resistance, health and hygiene.

Otto Cars talking to Paul Hansen at the opening of Hand to Hand. Photo: Minna Johannsdottir.

“The bacteria’s ability to resist antibiotics has grown dramatically over the last decades and caused several million deaths in infections that we previously could cure. This emerging multiresistance, which concerns us all, is an alarm clock to raise important questions about the fact that we live in different parts of the world but we affect each other’s health. It is important to create conditions for good hygiene and health throughout the world to reduce the spread of infections” says Otto Cars.

The connection between hygiene and health is becoming increasingly critical to life for a greater number of people. The current dramatic increase in multidrug resistant bacteria has resulted in a silent shift in where we move towards the post-antibiotic era. Diseases that we have been able to shake off easily thanks to antibiotics may now pose a threat to life.


Photographers Paul Hansen and Åsa Sjöström. Right: Professor Otto Cars. Photo: Minna Johannsdottir. 

Margita Ingwall, Head of Communications at Fotografiska says:

“Hand to Hand, a Fotografiska For Life exhibition, is an excellent example of Fotografiskas passion for highlighting crucial social issues through photography.

I have my own experience of resistance to antibiotics when my son was born and was very, very infected with staphylococci and streptococci, and so was I. We had to go through so many different antibiotic courses before the bacteria were gone. Without them he would not have survived.”

While the problem with antibiotic resistance is greatest in low and middle income countries, it concerns us all. It is important that global awareness on the importance of good hygiene is increased. This means that everyone has to realize that everyone, everywhere must contribute and change their behavior to prevent the spread of disease.