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.
Chapter 3 explores the frequent analogies made by light therapists between photographs and skin, and perceptions of the resemblances between photography and light therapy as technologies that both depended upon light in order to function. Their similar photochemical operations would make them appear at first to be natural bedfellows. But what began as a natural alliance between photography and light therapy soon became an uneasy, incestuous relationship between the visualising and therapeutic powers of light. Through the work of émigré photographer Edith Tudor-Hart, this chapter argues that light therapy was encountered and represented photographically as an obscure (literally ‘dark,’ unclear, or unknown) practice in which these light technologies do not so much converge as collide.
Chapter 5 analyses perceptions by light therapists of the suntan (pigmentation) as the external sign of stored solar energy in the body, of the body visualised as literally ‘photogenic’ (light-generating). It does so by focusing specifically on advertisements using colour to convey the glowing tans and radiant smiles of healthy mothers, thriving babies and virile men, who consume light in the battle against ‘sun-starvation.’ Both sunlight and artificial light were directed onto mothers’ malfunctioning breasts to restore lactation, onto ‘backwards’ children to correct normal brain functioning, and onto injured soldiers to disinfect and heal their fetid battle wounds. In the regeneration of these highly-valued subjects, physicians and politicians alike perceived light as an aid to national salvation. Yet in encouraging citizens to emulate the dark skins of ‘primitive’ races, they conveyed ambivalent attitudes towards the merits of suntanned skin. This chapter investigates suntan as simultaneously a visual marker of recharged health and a troubling act of racial transgression during a period of heightened eugenic fervour in Britain and Europe.
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.
Chapter 4 focuses on risk, damage, and injury through the art and advertising of visualising invisible light’s penetrating rays. It situates ultraviolet lamps and their advertisements as modern, vanguard objects communicating ambivalent messages about risk and safety. The chapter argues that manufacturers and practitioners relied heavily on montage as a vanguard medium of representation to convey visible and invisible rays of natural and artificial light. It contextualises physicians’ use of infrared and ultraviolet rays in relation to the contemporaneous development of radiotherapy, including X rays and the beta, alpha and gamma rays of radium. Burns, lesions and skin cancers from all of these rays are investigated, as well as the similar ways in which these risky, invisible rays were visualised, ingested, and marketed. The complex relationship between these different wavelengths - sometimes perceived as allies, sometimes enemies - in the therapeutic process elucidates surprising tensions in light therapy’s past, connecting the tanning lamp to the atom bomb.
In this chapter, the author explains the internment of aliens in Britain during the Second World War. The 'internment of aliens' is a peculiar and rather hysterical measure taken by the British government after Dunkirk. The author describes his father as an alien. He is alien to Britain and to English culture. He came to Britain from Germany in February 1938, was a class C 'enemy alien' (recognised as a genuine refugee, and officially designated a 'friendly' enemy alien). The classifications were made by wartime tribunals set up in Britain in 1939.
The fifteenth-century Florentine friar Roberto Caracciolo identifies three aspects of the Annunciation: the Angelic Mission, the Angelic Salutation and the Angelic Colloquy, and others have followed him in discussing the five successive 'laudable conditions of the virgin', stages of the event depicted in pre-Renaissance and Renaissance art. The author's positive imagining of the malignant tumour, and especially his aversion to displaced conversations about childbirth, is long-standing attraction to the scene of the Annunciation in Western art.
In this chapter, the author, through a family history, speaks of how forced exile persists through generations. He narrates the series of events that took place after he left England and moved to United States, including the catastrophic failures of nuclear reactors. The discussion largely focuses on the incidence of cancers caused by exposure to radioactivity in England, and the impact it had on Anglo-American relations. The author also showcases the differences between English and American cultures.
In this chapter, the author talks about her mother. She started keeping a baby diary on 5 July 1943, just over three months after the author was born. From starting off as a real Austerity baby, war time model, she soon became lovely and plump. The author also talks about the anxious childhood of the British journalist Anne Karpf, daughter of Holocaust survivors, in London.
This book can be described as an 'oblique memoir'. The central underlying and repeated themes of the book are exile and displacement; lives (and deaths) during the Third Reich; mother-daughter and sibling relationships; the generational transmission of trauma and experience; transatlantic reflections; and the struggle for creative expression. Stories mobilised, and people encountered, in the course of the narrative include: the internment of aliens in Britain during the Second World War; cultural life in Rochester, New York, in the 1920s; the social and personal meanings of colour(s). It also includes the industrialist and philanthropist, Henry Simon of Manchester, including his relationship with the Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Nansen; the liberal British campaigner and MP of the 1940s, Eleanor Rathbone; reflections on the lives and images of spinsters. The text is supplemented and interrupted throughout by images (photographs, paintings, facsimile documents), some of which serve to illustrate the story, others engaging indirectly with the written word. The book also explains how forced exile persists through generations through a family history. It showcases the differences between English and American cultures. The book focuses on the incidence of cancers caused by exposure to radioactivity in England, and the impact it had on Anglo-American relations.