This is an exhibition catalogue for a show of 16 photographers who documented major topics in health over the last century. Carol Squiers, curator of the show, provides ten essays, amply illustrated by photos, on critical topics such as child labor, domestic violence, environmental pollution, AIDS, veterans of war, and aging. Some 80 per cent of the images treat American subjects.

Lewis Wickes Hine's photographs of child labor are dramatic and disturbing; these document children in coal mines, cotton mills, glass works, etc. in the first part of the 20th century. The Farm Security Administration sponsored photographers (including Dorothea Lange) to represent the New Deal Health Initiatives. Topics include farm labor, poverty in the South and Southwest, and inoculations. W. Eugene Smith created a photographic essay for Life magazine about Maude Callen, an African-American nurse-midwife in 1950s rural South Carolina.

Donna Ferrato documented domestic violence in the U.S. in powerful, personal shots, including a series of an actual attack. David T. Hanson created triptychs about environmental pollution: one panel shows a map of the area, a middle panel gives descriptive text, the last panel is an aerial shot in color. Eugene Richards spent time in the 1980s in Denver General's Emergency Room. Eleven black and white photos show the turmoil and drama.

Gideon Mendal documented HIV/AIDS in several African countries. Lori Grinker took photos of army veterans (some without hands) but also noncombatants harmed by war, including children. Ed Kashi presents images of aging Americans, rich and poor, urban and rural. Sebastião Salgado provides photos of vaccination in Africa and Asia.


This is an excellent and well-produced volume covering a large number of important topics. Each chapter has a dozen or more photos, well produced and laid out. The book is large format, so that full-page photos have quite an impact (for example a man striking a woman in a bathroom lined with mirrors, so that the photographer is visible). The smaller number of color photos have striking tones (for example an Israeli war vet with no feet floating in a swimming pool).

The photos are often intimate and personal, including close-ups of patients and care-givers: a widow and son hand roll cigarettes in a New York tenement; a Tanzanian woman carries her son, although full grown, wasted by AIDS; a policeman interviews a distraught woman, while the husband, in the neighboring room, is guarded by another policeman. Chapter Five alone has no people for subjects; the aerial photos of polluted sites have an eerie beauty as abstractions, although Love Canal (represented here) exemplifies the dangers to humans who live nearby.

For each chapter, Carol Squiers provides substantial and valuable essays, carefully researched and footnoted. She gives information on the photographers, of course, but also on the wider historical, cultural, and epidemiological aspects of each topic. She gives insightful comments on individual photos, sharpening our gaze, but there is little on technical matters of photography's development throughout the century represented. Clearly we move from large cameras using plates to 35 mm cameras, from black and white to color, from film to digital technology. (Sizes of the original images are not given.)


Joint publication of International Center of Photography (ICP) and University of California Press, in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name that ran December 9, 2005, to February 26, 2006, at the ICP in New York City. The exhibit is a collaboration between ICP and the Milbank Memorial Fund.


International Center of Photography/Univ. of California Press

Place Published

New York/Berkeley



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