It was an incidental discovery, his love for art, that began when he was in junior high. “I was into the sciences, and I made a project where I was growing bacteria that grow in the dark. In order to photograph them, I had to learn how to take my own pictures and push the film.”
The project came to an end, but his interest in photography was permanent. “And then when I was in high school, I’d be the school photographer for our newspaper, and then I became the yearbook editor, so I did a lot of photography for that.”
In fact, with so much photography at a young age, it begs the question: did it ever come to a choice between becoming a physician, and becoming a photographer?
“No, not really. I mean, I don’t know if I could have made a living of it,” he chuckles. “There are a lot more artistic people than I am, and I’m sure a lot of people have more talent. But I understood the science of photography, because I’d come at it from my science projects and from physics and things like that, so I think that part interested me.”
"Art Vs. Science"
In fact, the science behind photography initially led Dr. Kaufmann to consider practicing a different specialty. “Ophthalmology sort of interests me because it’s like the ‘eye’ in the camera. But I didn’t have any talent (for) operating, so…” he laughs.
After a lifetime of taking photos, he reflects on his favorites. Or rather, his lack thereof. “Well, of course, photographing my family is probably the most memorable, but… each time you have a picture, number one, it helps you appreciate beauty. That’s one reason why I enjoy photography.” And in the end, it comes down to the moment being captured. “I’m not an artist, I can’t draw worth a darn, but you know, it preserves the memories.”
And not only does Dr. Kaufmann preserve memories, he shares them by donating photography to the clinic. But seeing his photography on the walls is only one tangible outcome. There’s been another, more profound result from this intersection of interests. It’s made him stronger as a physician.
“About half of your brain is occupied by visual cortex and the connections, so I think you tend to be a fairly visual person when you do photography. You look at the patient, you look at the patient’s eyes, you try to look at the whole person, you try to be observant. And when we’re taught physical diagnosis, a lot of what we can diagnose without the use of machinery and echo(cardiograms)s and x-rays, you do by examining the patient. So, I think being a photographer just sensitizes you to the whole person.”
Asha is a microbiologist working in the central lab. Originally from Somalia, she’s been with Allina Health for over a decade now. And she has a special appreciation for each and every day of those years.