Feature Story

Showcasing the Beauty Inside Medical Machines

When photographer Reiner Riedler's son was an infant, a serious health issue required him to stay in the hospital. During his visits to see his young son, Riedler gravitated toward the surrounding medical systems used to monitor and deliver care to his child. He felt a sense of reassurance and gratitude for their role in assisting the doctors and nurses in their efforts.

"The first night, when I entered the maternity ward at the hospital, I saw all these babies sleeping in their beds with blinking lights and beeping machines around them," remembers Riedler, who lives in Vienna, Austria. "I felt somehow very secure—I knew everything would be ok."

The event sparked an interest for Riedler in the fascinating inner workings of healthcare technology, and he began to explore it through his camera lens. He captured images of sophisticated medical devices such as an incubator, CT machine, artificial heart, ventilation system, infusion system and a Baxter hemodialysis machine, and compiled them in his latest photography collection, The Lifesaving Machines. 

During the project, Riedler worked with Biagio Oppi, Gambro communications manager, and Marco Zanini, Gambro monitor development specialist, to learn more about Gambro's medical products (Gambro was later acquired by Baxter in 2013). He visited the company's facility in Medolla, Italy, where dialysis machines are made and marveled at the inner workings of the hemodialysis machine.

"This was one of the crucial moments during this project. Opening up the machines was like entering a new dimension—it showed the complexity of the technology and the beauty of its design," he says.

Hemodialysis is one of the treatment options available to patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Currently, there are nearly two million patients worldwide with ESRD receiving HD therapy.  A growing population with diabetes, blood pressure issues and other key causes of kidney disease, means the incidence rate of ESRD and the need for dialysis is also growing by an estimated six to seven percent annually around the world.1 For many patients with ESRD, HD therapy is performed to remove waste and excess fluids from the body by processing their blood through an artificial kidney (or the dialyzer). Clean blood is then returned to the body after the filtering process is complete.

Riedler says that he hopes that his new photography collection not only helps the public appreciate the beauty of medical technology, but also prompts viewers to open up and share their own health experiences and encounters with life-saving devices.

"A friend of mine told me that her mother was treated with a dialysis machine and told him that she now saw the machine from a totally new angle," Riedler shares. "Another friend who was on the way to undergo a heart operation told me about the machines surrounding him in the hospital and his fears of death. His operation was a success and I would like to believe that my work helped him deal with this difficult situation."

Reiner Riedler

Austrian photographer Reiner Riedler became interested in medical technology after his young son’s hospitalization, and began exploring it further through his camera lens. Photo copyright Reiner Riedler/AnzenbergerGallery. Used with permission.

Reiner Riedler

Through his photos, Riedler hopes to help the public appreciate the beauty of medical systems and to open up and share their own health experiences and encounters with life-saving devices. Photo copyright Reiner Riedler/AnzenbergerGallery. Used with permission.

To learn more about The Lifesaving Machines, visit: http://www.photography.at/_the_lifesaving_machines.html

View Riedler's other photography or learn more about his books.

Riedler is exhibiting his work at Sous Les Etoiles Gallery in New York. Learn more.


1Anand S, Bitton A, Gaziano T (2013) The Gap between Estimated Incidence of End-Stage Renal Disease and Use of Therapy. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72860. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072860.