The hospital is located aboard a ship called the Anastasis. It’s part of a Christian organization called Mercy Ships, which, since 1978, has been working to bring free medical care to those who have no access to surgical procedures like cleft-lip correction, or cataract and facial tumor removal.

In Western countries, these conditions are usually obliterated before posing a threat to the patient’s health and appearance. But in developing countries they’re often left untreated, causing disability and disfigurement and leading to social ostracism.

Mercy Ships’ work is captured in Mercy, a free multimedia exhibit running through Sept. 8 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City’s Chelsea district. The exhibit was put together by party-promoter-turned-photographer Scott Harrison, who traveled with the Anastasis to Benin and Liberia between October 2004 and June 2005. He documented the entire process, from the initial screening of 7,000 potential surgical candidates to the actual surgeries to follow-up visits with patients.

Some of the patients were grotesquely deformed by grapefruit-sized tumors, while others were nearly blind from cataracts that turned their eyes opaque. Some arrived with only cloth covering their afflictions. But within hours, the shipboard doctors dramatically improved both appearance and quality of life.

In lands where electricity and running water are scarce, the 12,000-ton Anastasis comes equipped as a floating modern hospital. There are X-ray machines, a CT scanner, medical and pathology labs and three operating rooms, said Gary Parker, the ship’s chief medical officer.

A computerized microscope uses the ship’s satellite internet connection so doctors can consult remotely with colleagues about difficult cases. Slides placed under the scope can be manipulated remotely, meaning educated guesses of diagnoses come in within minutes instead of days, Parker said.

Harrison’s lens captured much of this work from start to finish. Winding through Mercy, visitors see before-and-after shots of patients, often set up as contrasting black-and-white photos with color to magnify the differences. There is a Brady Bunch-style digital projection wall, which also shows patients’ surgical transformations, and a wall of e-mail correspondence from Harrison’s time on the ship. Photos show doctors examining and operating. A bank of televisions flashes stills of a woman, soon after cataract surgery, seeing her sister for the first time in five years.

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