Photographing Life and Death: Lennart Nilsson, Medicine and the Media in Sweden, 1940–2010
The purpose of the sabbatical is to finish a book manuscript on the famous photographs of Lennart Nilsson (1922–2017), with an international publisher. A sabbatical leave will also make it possible to benefit from and strengthen already existing international and national collaborations. During a research stay in the UK the project will especially draw on the expertise of colleagues at Cambridge University and University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. My book examines Nilsson’s photographs by placing them back in the historical context in which they were produced, circulated and reviewed. It tells, for the first time, the extraordinary story of how the work of Nilsson, medicine and the media in Sweden were intertwined in the process of transforming dead embryos, fetuses and body parts into spectacular visions of “life”. A central argument is that a number of commercial, professional, personal and other interests were involved and that an immense effort went into, not only making and selling the photographs, but also trying to control public knowledge about how the images were produced and what they showed. In this way, the book is part of a growing literature that has begun to analyze the shifting relationships between medicine and the media in different historical settings. In addition, it contributes to recent studies that have provided a longer historical perspective on the rise of “the public fetus”.