Medical Photography: Opportunities and Challenges

A thought-provoking reflection on the ethics of using (potentially sensationalist) medical photographs.

Liverpool's Medical Community Since 1930

There is something irresistible, especially when internet connectivity and social media make it so easy, about the temptation to share research findings that appear sensational, explicit, or shocking. Arguably, the core of a solid historical case study is a story, object or image that draws in an audience, and is perhaps an exaggerated example of a broader theme, providing an accessible single anchor to the debate.

A good example of this is Jonathan Hogg’s essay “‘The Family that Feared Tomorrow’: British Nuclear Culture and Individual Experience in the late 1950s.” Hogg uses a sensational story from the Daily Mirror in 1957 (with the headline “The Family that Feared Tomorrow”) in which a family carry out a suicide pact, allegedly out of fear of imminent horrific death in nuclear conflict. The article uses this extreme story to tease out subtler shifts in cultural attitudes during the Cold War period, the tragic…

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