Skip to content

Pathologizing Bodies

Medical Portrait Photography in Nineteenth-Century America

Andrea Zittlau

Pages 543 - 558


With the invention of photography in the first half of the nineteenth century, the camera soon became a widely used instrument in the field of medicine. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, photography helped to classify the pathological while defining the ‘normal.’ In this process the body became a highly de-individualized entity, but the individuality depicted in medical studio portraits reveals a struggle with scientific objectivity. This article engages with medical portrait photography by analyzing the photographs of Dr. James Buckner Luckie’s first and second case of successful triple amputation. The series of photographs is unusual because it shows a black man and a white man in a sequence. The pictures are trophies of medical success, but they also visualize the tensions that are characteristic of nineteenth-century American professional medicine: between racist assumptions, scientific discourse, and popular entertainment venues, as for example freak shows.


Export Citation