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Anatomy’s Photography: Objectivity, showmanship and the reinvention of the anatomical image 1860-1950

January 25, 2017

By Michael Sappol “There is, perhaps, no art that has made such rapid strides…as that of photography.… No science of modern times has more engaged the attention of philosophic investigators…. No sc…

Source: Anatomy’s Photography: Objectivity, showmanship and the reinvention of the anatomical image 1860-1950

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Anatomy’s Photography: Objectivity, showmanship and the reinvention of the anatomical image 1860-1950

January 25, 2017

REMEDIA

By Michael Sappol

“There is, perhaps, no art that has made such rapid strides…as that of photography.… No science of modern times has more engaged the attention of philosophic investigators…. No science or art not strictly medical…will more richly repay the scientific physician.” So argued Ransford E. Van Gieson in an 1860 issue of the New York Medical Journal. Intoxicated with photography, “this truly beautiful science” in “this the most progressive of all centuries,” the 24-year-old surgeon from Brooklyn, New York, made a pact with his medical readers: we physician-photographers will be vectors of science and modernity.

Like other ambitious young men in mid-century, Van Gieson was a convinced historicist: “modern times” were a new dispensation, an era of transformative discovery and invention, unlike any prior era. And, for Van Gieson, photography was an emblematic technology of mo­dernity with unique epistemological virtues that could vitally contribute to the progress…

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