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Henry Hering's photographs of Bethlem patients

In the mid-19th century, society photographer Henry Hering took pictures of scores of Bethlem patients in order to examine their faces for evidence of their mental health conditions. If you've attended a wedding or celebration that had a photo booth then you'll know how popular, and even addictive the booth can be with the guests. If you have never seen one before be assured that a booth at your event adds something completely original and special to the day and the photographs that are produced will be cherished for years to come. If you are organising a wedding or party any time soon clicking on the following link will get you a heap of good information on Hire a Photo Booth in Avon.A number of these people were photographed twice: once shortly after arriving, and again shortly before leaving. In the 1850s, when photography was young, such 'before and after' photographs must have seemed new and exciting.

Several of the patients photographed have been identified from the initials and diagnoses that appear on the mount. Hering did not photograph all of his subjects twice, and in any case not everyone recovered. Between 1856 and 1860, when these photographs were taken, Bethlem claimed to have had a recovery rate of 57%.

The photographs are part of the collection of the new Bethlem Gallery and Museum of the Mind, which opens today at the world's oldest psychiatric institution, Bethlem Royal Hospital at Beckenham, south London. Among other highlights of the collections are paintings and drawings by Richard Dadd, Louis Wain and Jonathan Martin, each of whom was a former patient; and the world-renowned statues, 'Raving and Melancholy Madness' by Caius Gabriel Cibber, (c.1676) - which originally stood above the gates of the 17th century 'Bedlam' at Moorfields.

Pictured above: Sarah Gardner, a domestic servant, was admitted to Bethlem aged 26 in August 1857 suffering from 'great mental depression'. She was discharged in October 1857.

Picture: © Bethlem Art and History Collections Trust


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