Soaking up the rays forges a new path for exploring Britain’s fickle love of the light by investigating the beginnings of light therapy in the country from c.1890-1940. Despite rapidly becoming a leading treatment for tuberculosis, rickets and other infections and skin diseases, light therapy was a contentious medical practice. Bodily exposure to light, whether for therapeutic or aesthetic ends, persists as a contested subject to this day: recommended to counter psoriasis and other skin conditions as well as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and depression; closely linked to notions of beauty, happiness and well-being, fuelling tourism to sunny locales abroad and the tanning industry at home; and yet with repeated health warnings that it is a dangerous carcinogen. By analysing archival photographs, illustrated medical texts, advertisements, lamps, and goggles and their visual representation of how light acted upon the body, Woloshyn assesses their complicated contribution to the founding of light therapy. Soaking up the rays will appeal to those intrigued by medicine’s visual culture, especially academics and students of the histories of art and visual culture, material cultures, medicine, science and technology, and popular culture.
The major part of this book project was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 700913. This book is about two distinct but related professional cultures in late Soviet
Russia that were concerned with material objects: industrial design and
decorative art. The Russian avant-garde of the 1920s is broadly recognised to
have been Russia’s first truly original contribution to world culture. In
contrast, Soviet design of the post-war period is often dismissed as hackwork
and plagiarism that resulted in a shabby world of commodities. This book
identifies the second historical attempt at creating a powerful alternative to
capitalist commodities in the Cold War era. It offers a new perspective on the
history of Soviet material culture by focusing on the notion of the ‘comradely
object’ as an agent of progressive social relations that state-sponsored Soviet
design inherited from the avant-garde. It introduces a shared history of
domestic objects, handmade as well as machine-made, mass-produced as well as
unique, utilitarian as well as challenging the conventional notion of utility.
Situated at the intersection of intellectual history, social history and
material culture studies, this book elucidates the complexities and
contradictions of Soviet design that echoed international tendencies of the late
twentieth century. The book is addressed to design historians, art historians,
scholars of material culture, historians of Russia and the USSR, as well as
museum and gallery curators, artists and designers, and the broader public
interested in modern aesthetics, art and design, and/or the legacy of socialist
Chapter 2 questions British physicians’ conflicting perceptions towards sunburn (solar erythema) in the therapeutic process, as a physiological marker at once feared and desired during the cure. Both the visual sign of damage and therapeutic success, sunburn’s value was hotly contested amongst practitioners. This chapter tracks the ambivalent role of sunburn in the dosage standardisation of ultraviolet light through documentary photographs of c.1893-1940 that are particularly difficult to read, both literally and figuratively, beginning with a photograph of Finsen’s irradiated, sunburnt forearm - one of the earliest images, if not indeed the first, of ‘modern’ light therapy. British physicians and researchers came to convey enormous conceptual weight onto the visual production of sunburn, a phenomenon known to be visibly transient, latent and variable according to the individual, and thus a particularly uncooperative visual anchor on which to standardise exposures. The chapter argues that the very desire to ‘fix’ sunburn (to photographically record it for measurable qualitative and quantitative data), in spite of its variability, betrays deep-seated anxieties on the part of practitioners to wrestle control over light therapy as a purportedly ‘systematic’ and ‘modern’ form of medicine.
Scholars studying light therapy’s history
pay surprisingly little attention to its specific – and contested – methods,
practices, and theories, preferring instead to examine its popular public
appeal. 56 I propose
that one cannot fully appreciate the latter without in-depth knowledge of
the former. Above all, the historic role of images and objects has not
undergone serious and methodical study. To carry out that study I
the position of professionals under state socialism and contest the dual
image of them as either repressed, innocent intellectuals (a label usually
applied to avant-garde artists)30 or as opportunistic collaborators with the
regime.31 A number of recent studies provide a more balanced view, presenting professionals’ diverse strategies for navigating Soviet institutions
and ideological guidelines, and creating spaces for debate and critique
within the official culture.32 Likewise, I argue that Soviet artists, designers
and critics could be dedicated to
popularisation of feminine forms for denoting professions is still a highly contested subject in Russia.
Smirnov, Khudozhnik o prirode veshchei, p. 129.
‘Industrial Design Definition History’, the official website of World Design Organi
sation (formerly known as International Council of Societies of Industrial Design),
http://wdo.org/about/definition/industrial-design-definition-history/ (accessed 6
Kushner, ‘Organizatory proizvodstva’; Tarabukin, Ot mol’berta k mashine.
RGALI, f. 2943, op. 1, d. 2550, l. 10.
A. Riabushin et al., ‘Tekhnicheskaia estetika I
Consumer Ideology ’, Art Journal , 41:1 (1981), 39–45; and
Abigail Solomon-Godeau, ‘The Armed Vision Disarmed: Radical Formalism
from Weapon to Style’, in Richard Bolton (ed.), The Contest of
Meaning: Critical Histories in Photography ( Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 1992), pp.
Maud Lavin, ‘Photomontage, Mass Culture, and
, Imperial Leather: Race,
Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest ( London and New York : Routledge, 1995),
especially her discussion of the ‘Chlorinol’ advertisement, pp. 220–1.
See also Rebecca Herzig, ‘ Removing Roots: “North American Hiroshima
Maidens” and the X-Ray ’, Technology and Culture , 40
(1999), 723–45; Amina Mire, ‘ “Skin Trade”: Genealogy of Anti-Ageing