PUB: Doctored: The Medicine of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America by Tanya Sheenan

“Doctored: The Medicine of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America,” by Tanya Sheenan was released last week from Penn State University Press.

In Doctored, Tanya Sheehan takes a new look at the relationship between
photography and medicine in American culture, from the nineteenth century
to the present. Sheehan focuses on Civil War and postbellum Philadelphia,
exploring the ways in which medical models and metaphors helped strengthen
the professional legitimacy of the city’s commercial photographic
community at a time when it was not well established. By reading the trade
literature and material practices of portrait photography and medicine in
relation to one another, she shows how their interaction defined the space
of the urban portrait studio as well as the physical and social effects of
studio operations. Integrating the methods of social art history, science
studies, and media studies, Doctored reveals important connections between
the professionalization of American photographers and the construction of
photography’s cultural identity.

In Doctored, Tanya Sheehan investigates the discursive intersections
between photography and medicine in the late nineteenth century. Sheehan
explores an understudied trove of professional photographic literature in
order to understand the history of photography from its most popular
practitioners’ point of view. This is a wonderful visual culture history.
–Shawn Michelle Smith, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Doctored is a highly original and thoughtful study that illuminates the
rich ties between nineteenth-century American portrait photography and
medical practice. It illustrates how the nascent medium of photography
gained legitimacy by forging ties to science and explores the deeply
rooted belief in photography as a cure for social and even physical ills.
The book makes a major contribution to our understanding of early
photographic practice and its complex relationship to medicine, race, and
class. –Martin A. Berger, University of California, Santa Cruz

This remarkable book combines close readings of periodicals with
theoretical acumen and interpretive insights, revealing the central role
that medical metaphors played in American photographic culture in the
nineteenth century. Conveniently embodying the desires and anxieties of
both photographers and their clients, these medical metaphors were made
manifest as much in advertisements, cartoons, and articles as in actual
photographic portraits. Casting doubt on any hard-and-fast distinction
between the social and the physical body, Doctored will change the way you
think about this period of American history. –Geoffrey Batchen, Victoria

Tanya Sheehan’s Doctored is cultural history at its best, combining a
magisterial examination of nineteenth-century photographic literature with
a persuasive and nuanced argument about metaphor and photography’s
discursive claims to professional expertise. A must-read for scholars of
photography, art history, American studies, nineteenth-century cultural
history, and urban studies. –Elspeth H. Brown, University of Toronto


Author: Camara Dia Holloway

I am an art historian specializing in early twentieth century American art with particular focus on the history of photography, race and representation, and transatlantic modernist networks. I earned my PhD at Yale University in the History of Art Department. Besides my leadership role as the Founding Co-Director of the Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH), I am recognized for my expertise on African American Art, particularly African American Photography, and as a seasoned consultant for exhibitions, museum collections, and symposia/lectures planning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: