Reed Bontecou: Masterpieces of Civil War Portraiture at The Robert Anderson Gallery

The Burns Archive is pleased to announce the opening of the first major commercial exhibition of Reed B. Bontecou, MD’s Civil War photography. Bontecou’s photographs challenge the master photographers of his era.
Sepember 28 - Nov 12, 2011  
Reception Oct 6, 6-8pm

Robert Anderson Gallery24 West 57th Street, Suite 503
New York, NY, 10019
Hours: 11am -6pm, Tues - Saturday

A Selection of the Exhibited Photographs:

Brazer Wilsey, Sergeant, Company D, 4th NY Vols., Aged 30.
Accidental Gunshot Wound Of Scalp Over Frontal Bone, Denuding Bone Of Periosteum.
Hand-drawn bullet path by R. B. Bontecou.
Andsell H. Beam, Corporal, Company I, 26th Michigan, Volunteers, Age 24.
Gunshot Wound Of Head, Injuring Skull, Upper Anterior Aspect.
Hand-drawn Bullet Path by R. B. Bontecou.
Jacob Immell, Private, Company L, 21st PA Cavalry.
Gunshot Wound, Upper Third of Right Thigh, Anterior to Femur. Femoral Artery Later attacked by Gangrene.
Robert Spense, Sergeant Company B, 6th Maryland Vols..
Gunshot Wound of Neck, the Ball Passing from Right to Left.
Henry Wilkins, Private Company H, 24th U. S. Infantry, Age 25.
Gunshot Wound of from gunshot wound of left knee joint, Amputation Performed June 8, 1864. The Patient Continued Suffering with No Prospect of a Final Recovery, Remained in this Condition Until the Month of May, 1865, When it was Deemed Expedient to Remove the Necrosed Bone it Having Become Detached….
John W. Payne, Corporal Company A, 5th Vermont, Age 34.
Gunshot Wound of Abdomen, the Ball Entering Over Left Hypochondriac Region, Passing Obliquely Downwards and Backwards, and Emerging Near the Spine, Injuring in its Course the Descending Colon, Feces Passing.

Robert Anderson Gallery Press Release:
The 43 albumen photographs on view at Robert Anderson Gallery compromise a rare, and for the most part, first time ever public view of the unique medical images by Reed Brockway Bontecou, MD, Surgeon in-Charge of Harewood U.S. Army General Hospital, Washington, D.C., from the Collection of Stanley B. Burns, MD.  In recognition of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, Robert Anderson Gallery offers this rare collection of albumen portraits and cartes de visites of wounded soldiers, selected from Bontecou’s personal albums.  The photographs represent a unique opportunity to view some of the most moving documents of the Civil War and the associated human casualties. 

Reed Bontecou was responsible for pioneering, and taking, the largest number of photographs of wounded soldiers during the Civil War and was the single largest contributor of photographs and specimens to the Army Medical Museum and medical publications of the time. His close up images of surgery, anesthesia, and patients posing with their pathological specimens were unique to his time. Many photographs are of patients pre- and post- operation, views of patients showing the progression of specific treatments, or the various stages of diseases. After the war he organized his photographs into albums laying them out, anatomically from head to foot wounds, and loosely alphabetically by soldier’s name.

Bontecou’s images are beautifully posed, and the sitters seem almost serene in his gaze, elevating clinical photography to an art form. They speak a universal language of war, or rather, what it can do in human terms. Bontecou was a master of exposing the nature of the sitter. Beyond the wounds, the amputations, and the gangrene, the subject is presented as naturally as possible. It should be noted that smiling in photographs during this early period was very rare and the subject put on his best expression. Some images are further enhanced by Bontecou’s own red pen, detailing the trajectory of the bullet that impacted on the patient. These images, with the hand drawn lines, were part of his personal Harewood Hospital teaching album.

Also on view are his Cartes de Visites, an amazing visual document of the medical aspects of war and examples not equaled until fifty years later during WW1. The CDV album is the pioneering effort by one physician to document war wounds and to use photography to teach physicians how to care for these wounds. Due to their historical precedence there can be no doubt that Bontecou’s CDV album, kept at Harewood U. S. A. General hospital, is the premier medical photograph album of the Civil War.  No other large compilations of war-time clinical images exist, with over 570 images. On view will be one page of the album, comprised of 12 single CDVs, and four single CDVs from The Amy Medical Museum, Photographs Contributed by R. B. Bontecou.


Corset Findings

The Burns Archive Staff happened upon these beautiful corset photos while tidying up the archive this week. We hope you enjoy them. Both fashion and medical corsets are featured.

Parisian Woman With Corseted Waist, Cabinet Photo, Circa 1890s
Parisian Woman With Corseted Waist, Cabinet Photo, Circa 1890s (Verso)
Medical Corset "For the immediate relief of the distress after eating."


The Museum of Vision: Picturing the Eye: Ophthalmic Photography and Film

Ophthalmic Heritage to be Highlighted at the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting in Orlando

“Picturing the Eye: Ophthalmic Photography and Film” will be on display during show hours Oct. 22 through 25 in the Orange County Convention Center, Level 2, Hall A4, Booth #1266.

The “Our Ophthalmic Heritage: The Evolution of Ophthalmic Imaging” symposium will be held on Monday, Oct. 24, from 12:15 to 1:45 p.m. in room W414ab at the Orange County Convention Center and is open to all meeting attendees.

"A number of pieces are on loan from Stanley B. Burns, MD, and the Burns Archive in New York City. Dr. Burns is an ophthalmologist with a photo collection of 700,000 images. His collection of medical photography is the nation’s largest, with 40,000 images dating from the 1840s to the 1920s, with several thousand more from the 1930s to 1996. The Museum of Vision will also exhibit camera equipment, period photographs, stereo-graphs and atlases from its own collection. Four screens will also show selections from the Academy archives film collection containing early footage of cataract, retinal and other surgeries."

A few of the many Burns Archive pieces to be displayed:
Refractometer, 1880s
Conquering Ophthalmia Neonatorum: Crede Ptophylaxis
Retinal Blood Vessel Pattern ID System Camera, 1937
San Francisco, CA (PRWEB)

The Museum of Vision, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, will be showcasing a very special exhibit at the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s 2011 Annual Meeting in October in Orlando. The Museum’s “Picturing the Eye: Ophthalmic Photography and Film” exhibit will explore the extraordinary power of ophthalmic imaging through photography and film.

In addition to the exhibit, the Museum of Vision will co-sponsor the symposium “Our Ophthalmic Heritage: The Evolution of Ophthalmic Imaging” with the Ophthalmic Photographers’ Society.

Images of the eye and eye disease have been made almost since man was able to draw. This Museum’s exhibit will highlight the history of ophthalmology as a profession and its achievements related to imaging and iconic photographs while the symposium will discuss ophthalmic illustration, the discovery of photography and its application to ophthalmology, and the development of fluorescein angiography.

“Both the exhibit and the accompanying symposium are completely unique ways to illustrate a truly fascinating part of our ophthalmic heritage,” said Jenny Benjamin, Director of the Museum of Vision. “While images of eyes and eye disease have been created since the dawn of humankind, the greatness of photography and film in capturing the exact nature of disease and its cure is without parallel.”

About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons — Eye M.D.s — with more than 30,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three “O’s” – ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases, infections and injuries, and perform eye surgery. For more information, visit http://www.aao.org.

About The Museum of Vision
The Museum of Vision is an educational program of The Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. It is the only institution in the United States whose sole purpose is to preserve the history of ophthalmology and celebrate its unique contributions to science and health. The Museum of Vision strives to inspire an appreciation of vision science, the ophthalmic professions and contributions made toward preventing blindness. For more information on the Museum of Vision, visit http://www.museumofvision.org.


Manicomio Nacional: Female Uruguayan Psychiatric Patient Album

These photos from the album Manicomio Nacional: Departamento de Mujeres (National Madhouse: Woman’s Section), document the years February 1907 through August 1909, and each contains 201 double-sided pages. The  albums, with almost 500 photographs, are one of the largest such compilations surviving and are a legacy of a distant era of psychiatric treatment. This hospital, situated in Montevideo, was the primary psychiatric facility in Uruguay.

A photograph of each patient was taken upon entering and again at discharge. Almost all the entrance photographs are present, but only about half of the ‘leaving’ photographs are extant, partially due to the death of patients while in the hospital. Most patients remained only a few months, but some stayed as long as a year or more. The death rate was 16.5%. The study and analysis of the photographs, as well as the diagnosis and other parameters, offer special insight into the care provided. The patient documentation reveals that many were brought in by the municipal police, a few were transferred from other hospitals and some admitted by private physicians. Most have a written diagnosis and a few have treatment discussed. The photographs represent a cross section of patients with mental illness. Several images in the albums depict older children with mental retardation.

The discovery of a photo album of psychiatric patients is a significant photographic-historical event. Less than handful of these hospital albums have been uncovered in the last 30 years. Most were destroyed decades ago; however, a few have been preserved by institutions. 

Admitted: SEPT 20,1907
Admitted: JUL 25, 1908
Discharged: SEPT 30, 1908
Admitted: OCT 13, 1907
Discharged: JAN 26, 1908
Admitted: OCT 27, 1907
Discharged: DEC 2, 1907
Discharged: FEB 15, 1909
Discharged: AUG 24, 1907
Admitted: JAN 10, 1909
Discharged: MAR 30, 1909
Admitted: MAR 12, 1908
Discharged: AUG 28, 1908

Burns Archive Press Titles Seeing Seeing Insanity: Photography & The Depiction of Mental Illness and Patients & Promise: A Photographic History of Mental & Mood Disorders (4 Volumes) feature 35 photographs from the Manicomio Nacional album, along with an extended history and many other amazing historical images. Click the book covers below to visit the Burns Press Online Bookstore.