More on Victorian Photography (and mental illness)

So, for my essay on Victorian photography and its part in diagnosing mental illness, I’ve ended up digging quite deep into the effect this had on our theories about insanity.  It turns out that Diamond was not the only academic to pursue of this kind of therapy.  Across Europe, doctors such as Joseph Stolz, Albert Londe and Max Leidesdorf were also making portraits of their patients.  Albert Londe in particular produced a series of photographs at a hospital in Paris on what was described as hysteria, and showed muscular convulsions in patients similar to those seen by tightrope walkers.  These are now looked upon to be more a result of epileptic seizures, however he was noted at the time for these photographic experiments, more specifically his invention of a nine lens camera that was triggered by movement.  There was a great belief in physiognomy at this time in history, and many theories were in circulation of the body and the minds connection being one that mirrored each other’s states.  Contraction of the facial muscles in an abnormal manner was noted as the brain being in an insane state.  This theory raised questions however in whether the observable signs of insanity could be successfully imitated, and how this in turn would effect how a doctor diagnosed mental illness.  It presented doubts as to whether insanity could really be diagnosed on behavior alone based on whether the physician was able to determine the patient was not ‘faking it’.  G. B. Duchenne de Boulogne carried out experiments in the field in the 1860s using electric shock treatment on the facial muscles to determine if there was any truth in the link between muscle contractions and mental state.  The results found that the shock treatment caused the facial muscles to break recognized habit and move in new, unpredictable ways, however that these movements were independent and did not depend on state of mind.   By the 1870s and 80s, the theory of physiognomy was rapidly deteriorating in scientific value, and was instead challenged by the idea of the subconscious, where you start getting into Freudian theories!  Mad, innit?


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 )

Google+ photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: