Depth of Field, volume 6, no 1 (July 2015)Mieneke te Hennepe: Portraits of Pain: Clinical Photography of Children as a Social Marker

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In 1986, Museum Boerhaave, the National Museum for the History of Science and Medicine in the Netherlands, acquired a collection of three thousand glass negatives from a tuberculosis sanatorium in Katwijk aan Zee. This paper investigates aspects of social awareness in medical photography, taking this collection as a case study. These clinical images reveal a hidden world of suffering and social awareness, whilst simultaneously acting as a typical archive of medical portraits and typologies. A far cry from the happy children on popular postcards depicting sanatoria, the photographs attest to children suffering from disease, but they never lose their force as portraits. Produced as objective documents of disease, the direct portraits reveal the social awareness of poverty, as well as the hardships, pain and pride of the young patients in an important era of Dutch photography and social medicine.