Hugh Welch Diamond (1809–1886)

“Hugh Welch Diamond (1809-1886) has been described as “the father of psychiatric photography”.

From 1848-1858 he was Resident Superintendent of the Female Department of the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum. During this time he was influential in disseminating information on new developments in photography and applied this interest to his professional work.

In 1852 he presented a series of photographic portraits of patients to illustrate different types of insanity. This was the first systematic use of photography in this way.

Three functions of photography
In 1856 he followed this with a paper to the Royal Society, in which he set out what he considered to be the three functions of photography in the treatment of the mentally ill;

It could be used to record the appearance of patients with different psychiatric conditions, following the theories of the physiognomy of insanity current at that period
Photographs could also be used as a means of identification for readmission and treatment
Photography enabled the mentally ill to be presented with an accurate self-image, as an aid to treatment.
The Physiognomy of Insanity
In 1858, John Connolly, Professor of Medicine at the University of London, was inspired by Diamond’s photographs to write a major series of essays on “The Physiognomy of Insanity”, illustrated by lithographs taken from the photographs. These provide the missing case studies for some of Diamond’s photographs.”
Taken from: The Royal Society of Medicine: accessed 31.01.10


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