Medicine in Focus: Photographs, Medicine, Histories

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A free one-day workshop for historians using ‘medical’ photographs

Conference Programme

9.00    Registration and coffee

9.30    Welcome and Introduction – Katherine Rawling (Wellcome Trust ISSF Fellow in Medical Humanities, University of Leeds).

9.40-11.10    Patient and Practitioner Experience
Tim Zoltie (Head of Medical and Dental Illustration, Leeds), Title TBC (accuracy and the doctor-photographer – ethical and legal considerations).
Pat Walton (Cumbria), The Lived Experience of Chronic Pain: A Prospect to Transcend the Difficulties of Communicating Pain through Photography
Jason Bate (Exeter), Approaching the Medical Photograph as a Family Artefact

11.10-11.30    Coffee break

11.30-13.00    Practices, Bodies and Visual Media
Beatriz Pichel (PHRC, De Montfort), Normalising the Medical Portrait: Photographic Protocols in French Institutions Around 1900
Corinna Wagner (Exeter), ‘Taking the Machine to Pieces’: Medical Photography and the Fragmented Body
Harriet Palfreyman (CHSTM, Manchester), The Obvious and the Obscure: Intersections of Photography and Drawing in Dorothy Davison’s Surgical Illustrations

13.00-14.00    Lunch

14.00-16.00    The Camera in the Asylum and Hospital
Rory du Plessis (Pretoria), The Photographic Portraits of Patients from the Grahamstown Lunatic Asylum, South Africa, from 1890 to 1907
Caroline Bressey (UCL), Spaces of the ‘Cosmopolitan Asylum’
Stef Eastoe (Roehampton), Caterham Patient Portraits – Exploring Institutional Experience and Social Visibility
Jane Hamlett (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Julian Pooley (Surrey History Centre), Netherne, c.1960 – A Surrey Mental Hospital in Focus: Photography and Public History.

16.00- 16.20    Coffee break

16.20-17.00    Group discussion/roundtable and closing remarks

17.00    End of Conference

18.00    Drinks/conference dinner at local restaurant

Call for Papers

There is increasing scholarly interest in the photographic record of medicine. From photographs of practitioners and patients to medical sites and symptoms, historians are beginning to make productive use of the vast photographic archives of medicine. This one-day workshop is an opportunity for scholars using ‘medical’ photographs (broadly defined), across any period, country or culture, to meet and discuss definitions, theoretical approaches, methodologies, and advantages and disadvantages in researching photographs and medicine. It is envisaged that this will appeal to both historians who use medical or scientific photos in their research, and researchers across any discipline using photographic sources more generally.

Papers of 20 minutes are invited and works in progress are welcome. Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Definitions of a ‘medical photograph’ – what is a medical photo? what makes it medical?
  • Theoretical approaches and methodologies
  • Practical advice for historians on using medical photographs, the challenges and advantages of these sources
  • Ethics and historical photographs
  • The relationship between medical image and text
  • The use of the camera as a clinical tool
  • Medical photography as a practice
  • Networks, collaboration, exchange, relationships
  • Doctors/practitioners and photographers
  • Photography and the construction of medical knowledge
  • Photography and medical education
  • Medical practitioners as photographers
  • Photographs of medical practice, practitioners, medical sites, patients
  • Power, agency, control, surveillance, identity, subjectivity, the self in medical photographs


For more information or any questions please contact:

Dr Katherine Rawling
Wellcome ISSF Fellow in Medical Humanities, School of History
Rm 1.08 LHRI, 29-31 Clarendon Place, Leeds, LS2 9JT
For updates on the event follow @KatRawling