John Umney, the organiser of Memory: 7 Views by 7 Photographers – an exhibition of work by seven photographers from across the UK, at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital in Headington

The work we are showing is about that most fallible of human functions – memory. The images are diverse, dealing with the very personal to the corporate. We have interpreted the theme of memory in different ways. In a highly conceptual and poignant series, Sue Jones’s Remembering I’m Ill, for example, explores autobiographically the frustrations of living each day with memory loss.

I had the idea for a photography exhibition at the Nuffield because I volunteer there with arts and health charity Artscape. I am also studying for a photography degree with the Open College of the Arts, an education charity with students all over the country.

OCA isn’t an academic institution in the traditional sense, because what really matters to students is creating their own work and understanding where it fits into the contemporary arts world. So the idea for the exhibition made sense straight away to OCA’s principal, Gareth Dent.

Last October, we opened up the opportunity to exhibit at the Nuffield to all photography students in their final year. People were really enthusiastic, so I didn’t struggle to find six other students to work on the project with me.

The photos I have chosen to show use visual metaphor accompanied with fragments of text to create clues for people looking at them. My aim is for them to reconstruct their own narrative about what is going on, based on their own experience and prompted by the images.

At a simple level, the arts in hospitals provide a distraction for patients and visitors, creating a space for reflection. But there is growing evidence of the positive impact of the arts on health and wellbeing, both in physical and mental health. The arts can enhance recovery, improve quality of life (particularly for patients with long-term and terminal conditions), humanise healthcare environments for patients and staff, and contribute to cost savings through shorter hospital stays and reduced medication.

I don’t think in most cases the memories we all capture in photos are accurate or comprehensive. They capture something that existed but time and context alter them so we end up with subjective associations. In that way, photos can trigger detailed and expansive memories beyond the confines of the frame of a photo.

There is no doubt that taking photos is an accepted part of modern life, and that photos are likely to remain guardians of our future memories for the foreseeable future. Wouldn’t it be a step forward for hospitals if the positive role the arts can play in healthcare was just as readily accepted?

* Memory: 7 Views by 7 Photographers continues at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital, Headington, to July 4. Free.