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November 11, 1988

Photographing Medicine: Images and Power in Britain and America Since 1840

JAMA. 1988;260(18):2733-2734. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410180147055

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Photographs are source material for history, but, contrary to popular opinion, they are not objective records. Rather, they reflect some message that the photographer (or those who employed him) wanted to project. To study this phenomenon the authors present some 250 photographs, all taken between 1840 and the present, and all dealing with medicine in one or another way. The text interprets what the authors consider the implicit message to have been.

The pictures show a great variety of subjects, such as scenes on the wards and in the various clinics; different functioning departments of hospitals; or gatherings of people, whether dignitaries, doctors, nurses, or relatives. We are shown doctors at work, of various kinds. The range of activities has a broad scope, and the changes that time has brought about are apparent. Some of the reproductions are of fine quality, some are execrable, most are mediocre.

In the text