In the fall of 2020, a photo of an ICU doctor in scrubs and a mask, having sunk to his knees with his head in his hands while calling a family to let them know that their loved one had died of COVID-19, went viral on social media. Captured by Alberta Health Services staff photographer Leah Hennel, the image instantly conveyed the physician’s anguish and the grief emanating from the other side of the phone. It’s not the first time Hennel has conveyed a story in a single shot.
After nearly 20 years with the Calgary Herald, she shifted to the AHS job in 2019, while freelancing for The Globe and Mail, The Guardian and other publications. In 2020, she released Along the Western Front, a hardcover book depicting ranching culture in Southern Alberta, named one of the 12 best travel books of 2020 by National Geographic UK. Hennel was also part of the Canadian media contingency to the Tokyo Olympics.
“I love telling real, truthful stories of what people are doing,” she says. “I’ve been so lucky to find these amazing inspirational humans who allow me to take their photos and let me into their lives.”