PTI Summer session: Rethinking Medical Photography for the classroom

This weekend I led a session at the Princes Trust Institute Art Enrichment Residential on Rethinking Medical Photography. It’s always a fantastic experience to work with the PTI, because you get to work with teachers and consider how to get students engaged at all different year levels in the history of art.

For this summer session I brought Medical Photography to Art teachers and talked about the relationship between medical photography and art from the earliest days of photography. One of the great lessons for pre-GCSE students is that photography was originally conceived of as a scientific tool and it developed alongside art as a way to present the world in a ‘factual’ and ‘neutral’ way rather than through artistic interpretation.

While my main focus of study now is horror film, my background is in the history of photography, with a particular interest in the influences of medical and forensic photography on art. This talk is a good overview that I’ve given to a variety of audiences, but today I was able to adapt it to include ways that the lessons of medical photography can be brought into the art classroom. This included looking at specific artists who respond to medical photography. These artists open up possibilities for photography projects and demonstrating how history informs photographic practice.

The best part of the session though was what came next: a chance for the teachers to dive in and try some of the techniques discussed in the lecture. We drew on over a dozen artists who intervene found medical photographs and encouraged teachers to do the same on some found photography of our own. The goals were to see how different techniques like paper fold, cutting, collage and embroidery could alter or enhance the images and also to reflect our own reaction to the photographs. We also encouraged them to focus in on the idea of the body and personal identity.

As you can see, they did some really amazing work:

If you are a teacher or a school and are interested to know more about the Summer Residential for Teachers, visit the PTI website. It is a truly unique opportunity and there are so many opportunities to enrich your classroom and your career.

If you would like to talk to me about doing a history of photography session with your school or organisation, please get in touch.