Medicine

The theme and title of my gallery is “Medicine.” I chose to display nine images, depicting three distinct facets of medicine. The first three works focus on the traditional and spiritual aspects of healing. These works harken back to an earlier period in history, in which, without any modern medical alternatives, people were beholden to spirituality, superstition and faith to address their ailments. The second set of three works emphasizes the relationship between the doctor/healer and their patient. These works illustrate the connections and personal relationships between the subjects, by showing the doctors in close contact with the patient, though being in the patient’s home or on the patient’s visual level. This imagery conveys trust. The third set of works are meant to emphasize the impersonal state of contemporary medicine, and contrast with the previous six images.I chose these three particular works in order to depict the heavy reliance on science and reason, at the expense of trust and personal attention. 

I feel that my main idea is best expressed by the daguerreotype Use of Ether for Anesthesia taken by Southworth & Hawes in late spring 1847 (w20 x h14.6 cm). Use of Ether for Anesthesia is one of the first photographic images of any medical practice. This work shows an early use of anesthesia, performed by Dr. Solomon Davis Townsend in an operating theater, while fellow practitioners and students look on. This image depicts the mid-1800s turning point in medicine, when medicine and science began to intersect in a major way. The application of science to medicine has inarguably saved countless lives, but the focus on science has had negative side effects. The doctor patient relationship has eroded significantly over the past several centuries, due to the rise of doctor specialization, and diagnostic and treatment technology. This shift is exemplifies by the arrangement of the subjects in the photograph - the doctors crowd around the unconscious patient, positioned centrally, but on a lower plain than the physicians. The change is also represented by the blurred faces of the doctors swarming around the prone patient. This blur is not the result of artistic license, but rather an artifact of the log exposure time required by daguerreotype photography, but that does not diminish its artistic implications.
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