Un carnet a été imprimé en anglais pour le salon de la Royal Academy, conçu en trois volets, avec des photographies d’asile du XIXe siècle de Cayré, Rodez, 1862, des photographies de nuit du XXe et des œuvres du XXIe de Matthias Olmeta.
To Collect psychiatric photography ?
One of the first physicians to study the faces of people with psychiatric disorders using the medium of photography was an English man. In a still famous address to the Photographic Society in 1856, Dr Diamond asserted that Photography could help the insane to recover by presenting them with a true image of their ill self.
A similar line of research emerged in France. In 1863, the alienist Legrand du Saulle delivered a report before the Société médico-psychologique in Paris, De l’application de la photographie à l’étude des maladies mentales, mentioning many examples of continental psychiatric portraiture : the drawings by Esquirol’s and Guislain, the daguerreotypes by Baillarger and Ferrus, and Dagonet, Laurent and Billod’s Recherches physiognomiques, not to mention Adrien Tournachon and Duchene de Boulogne’ masterly pictures ofmental affliction.
Legrand was fully aware how photography could become an abusive technology and degrade the sense of self. However he mentioned if used correctly the effects could be redemptive. An important contribution of the new medium was made through the constitution of asylum archives.
The photographer Cayré pursued this aim with an intensity that still inspires us today. We are privileged to show five of those decisive portraits, recovered from oblivion after 1 1/4 century, at the Royal Academy of Art.
Stepping in with the 20h Century, the avantgardes, Dadaists, Surrealists and Expressionists suggested insane æsthetic should become the fashion, as a compensation for the dangerous over-representation of the straight. In 1905, Einstein had his big idea during a solar eclipse which simultaneously induced complete madness in over 500 people previously affected with partial mental disorders. Isn’t it in 1915 that a Serbian surrealist leader theorized the influence of solar eclipses on art market trends ? 21st Century. Turning a deaf ear to the yells of art critics, a young Frenchman declares : «When I completed I’m afraid of the Dark, I invited friends and visitors to my atelier in Marseille, and left with a girl. We had eight glasses of champagne and smoked two coibas. When we came back, everybody hated me more than before. Dark, Dark, Dark. No end….»
One classic thesis which remains unpublished goes some way to explaining the use of portrait photography in 19th century human science is Andreas Brœckmann’s A Visual Economy of Individuals, 1995.
Accès au pdf : 20.05.2005 Afraid of the Dark