Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
University of Leeds
Website URL
history of medicine, mental health, photography, patients, asylums, institutions, psychiatry, nineteenth century, visual culture, camera
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

My expertise lies in the visual culture of medicine in the modern period. Specifically, I pursue historical enquiry into the role, use, and meaning of photography in medicine and wider society.

My research explores the ways in which photography interacted with medical knowledge and practice, particularly when it became part of the patient-doctor encounter in the second half of the nineteenth century. My doctoral thesis (2011) analysed patient photographs contained in British and French medical textbooks, journals and asylum case books to explore photographic representations of patients across a range of nineteenth-century psychiatric institutions. It considered the interactions between gender, class and medical discourses of insanity as they were played out in front of the camera.

Additionally I am interested in the camera in Victorian institutions more generally, and the relationship between power, control, agency, and photographic technologies. My research contributes to the histories of mental ill-health, of photography, and of institutions but, primarily, to the history of patients. It explores patients’ complex interactions with doctors who were also photographers, the ways their bodies and conditions were displayed and appropriated through photography, and the ways in which patient images reflected and were informed by discourses of degeneration, abnormality, otherness and non-medical photographic conventions. This research forms the basis of my first book, Photography in English Asylums, c.1880-1914: The Institutional Eye which will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2021.

My next project, Photomania will examine the connections between nineteenth-century and present-day responses to photographic images and health to ask the question: ‘Can photography damage our health?’ The announcement of photography in 1839 was met with much enthusiasm; the camera had the potential to open up new worlds and possibilities, changing the ways we see each other and ourselves. Photographic images spread rapidly, comparable to the extensive exposure to, and almost instant dissemination of, digital images today. But just like our current concerns over selfies, filters, and over-exposure to photos, particularly amongst the young, the Victorians were also cautious about photography. Using a broad range of historical materials, this project will investigate the ‘un-healthiness’ of photography from three different perspectives – photographing; being photographed; and consuming photographs – to tell the untold story of the threats to health posed by the camera.

I am currently a Teaching Fellow in the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Leeds and a former Wellcome Trust ISSF Fellow in the Medical Humanities. I have taught Modern British Social and Cultural History and the History of Medicine at the Universities of Leeds, Warwick and Greenwich and Royal Holloway, University of London.

Recent Publications


  • Photography in English Asylums, c.1880-1914: The Institutional Eye. (Palgrave Macmillan, under contract, forthcoming 2021).


  • ‘The annexed photos were taken today: Photographing Patients in the Late-nineteenth-century Asylum.’ Social History of Medicine (advanced access online 30 June 2019).
  • ‘“She sits all day in the attitude depicted in the photo:” Photography and The Psychiatric Patient in the Late-Nineteenth Century’, Medical Humanities, Special issue on communicating mental health (June 2017), 43;2, pp.99-110.

Book Chapters:

  • ‘Patient Photographs, Patient Voices: Recovering Patient Experience in the Nineteenth-Century Asylum’, in Rob Ellis and Sarah Kendal (Eds.), Voices of Madness, (Palgrave Macmillan) (forthcoming, 2020).
  • ‘Gone but not forgotten: Acts of remembrance in the asylum, c.1880-1920’, in Rob Ellis, Jennifer Wallis and Rebecca Wynter (Eds.), Faith in Reform: Anniversaries, Memory and The Asylum in International Historical Perspective Under consideration with Palgrave Macmillan for their Mental Health in Historical Perspective series.

Book reviews:

  • Joanna Bourke, The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers (Oxford: OUP, 2014), Women’s History (2017), 9, p.18.
  • Amelia Bonea, Melissa Dickson, Sally Shuttleworth and Jennifer Wallis, Anxious Times: Medicine and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Pittsburgh: PUP, 2019), Social History of Alcohol and Drugs (2019), 33;2, pp.349-352.


Media Coverage
Country Focus
United Kingdom, Europe
Expertise by Geography
British Isles, England, France, United Kingdom, Western Europe
Expertise by Chronology
5, 7, 8
Expertise by Topic
Gender, Medicine, Science, Women