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Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Liz Orton: Humanizing the Medical Gaze

all images copyright Liz Orton

These images are from Liz Orton's investigations into the medical gaze and her attempts to rehumanise a way of looking at the body that is depersonalising and comes with a barrelful of fetishised and dominating ways of seeing that date back to the photography of Charcot, Duchenne and Diamond back to the time of photo illustration. 

The illustrations come from different editions of Clark's positioning for radiography (an incredible guiide filled with off-kilter, sexualised images - health and efficiency with added radium if you like), while the scans are Orton's attempts to rehumanise the body, reclaim it from the data that it has become under the medical gaze. It's not entirely successful as Orton admits but here, more than just about anywhere I can think of, it's the process that matters. And still the images are amazing. 

  Liz Orton uses medical imaging and clinical representation to focus on the medical gaze and its power relations. Through collaborative portraits, co-opted algorithms, and appropriated and cropped images from medical textbooks, she seeks to reclaim what makes us human from the hard facts and figures of medical imaging and the ways of seeing that accompany them.

It’s work that humanises images that are seen as evidential, scientific and objective yet come with a history that is tied to ideas of institutional power, surveillance and male dominated hierarchies. In that sense, her work is not just about the medical gaze, it’s about the history of photography and the ways in which it is used against people.

It’s also work that has a personal edge, its roots sunk in Orton’s experience of a ‘non-invasive’ MRI scan her 13-month-old daughter had to undergo at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

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