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Picturing Disability

Beggar, Freak, Citizen, & Other Photographic Rhetoric

by Robert Bogdan

Publication Year: 2012

Bogdan and his collaborators have studied thousands of historical photographs of people with disabilities in writing this book. Their work shows how people with disabilities have been presented but in a much wider range than we have ever seen before.

Published by: Syracuse University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-6


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

Martin Elks researched and wrote chapter 6, “Clinical Photographs.” James Knoll contributed chapter 9, “Art for Art’s Sake.” These chapters are based on Elks’s and Knoll’s outstanding doctoral dissertations, completed at Syracuse University (Elks 1992; Knoll 1987). ...


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pp. xv-xvi

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1. Introduction: Picturing Disability

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pp. 1-6

In this book, I examine historical photographs and old printed images derived from photos of people we would now say have disabilities.1 When the images were produced, the people depicted were referred to by many terms, ...

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2. Freak Portraits: Sideshow Souvenirs

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pp. 7-21

From the mid–nineteenth to the mid–twentieth century in America, the public exhibition of people with real and alleged physical anomalies in museum, circus, carnival, world fair, and amusement park sideshows for amusement and profit was widely popular and for the most part respectable.1 ...

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3. Begging Cards: Solicitation with Photographs

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pp. 22-41

People with disablements have always been over-represented in the ranks of beggars.1 In many people’s minds, begging goes hand in hand with disability. In some communities, so-called ugly laws prohibited disabled panhandlers from seeking alms. ...

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4. Charity: The Poster Child and Others

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pp. 42-56

During the second half of the nineteenth and continuing into the early years of the twentieth century, organizations whose goal was either to serve people with disabilities or to prevent disability or both prospered, grew, and proliferated. ...

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5. Asylums: Postcards, Public Relations, and Muckraking

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pp. 57-74

In this chapter, I diverge slightly from my focus on photographic images of people with disabilities. Here I spotlight pictures taken of one type of facility that housed people with disabilities— asylums, large residential settings that dominated some rural landscapes in the later part of the nineteenth century ...

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6. Clinical Photographs: “Feeblemindedness” in Eugenics Texts

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pp. 75-98

The eugenics era, a period covering approximately the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first three decades of the twentieth century, was a time when many medical and other professionals focused their attention on describing, explaining, photographing, and controlling classes of people ...

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7. Advertising Photographs: People with Disabilities Selling Products

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pp. 99-114

In an earlier chapter, we saw how disabled beggars finessed solicitation by offering begging cards and other petty items to would-be donors. In most cases, the goods were insignificant and provided merely the illusion of a real exchange. ...

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8. Movie Stills: Monsters, Revenge, and Pity

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pp. 115-128

I was discussing this book with a colleague and mentioned that I was writing a chapter that included horror and gangster movies. He was taken aback. He wanted to know: “What do these movies have to do with disability?” ...

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9. Art for Art’s Sake: People with Disabilities in Art Photography

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pp. 129-143

Because of restrictions involved in obtaining permissions to publish some illustrations I had chosen for this chapter, I have been unable to include many of the images I hoped to. Those I have included are in the public domain, or the photographers or their agents have granted permission to reproduce them here. ...

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10. Citizen Portraits: Photos as Personal Keepsakes

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pp. 144-164

In disability photographs, the person with the disability and his or her physical or mental condition are central to the composition. This centrality is clear in freak show handouts, begging cards, charity publicity, eugenics texts’ clinical portraits, and other genres. ...

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11. Conclusion: Just a Beginning

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pp. 165-180

In this book, I have shown you amusement world freak photographs, beggars’ cards, poster children, asylum representations, art photography, advertisements, clinical photographs, movie stills, ordinary family and citizen photography, and more. I have discussed and demonstrated an approach to analyzing pictures of people with disabilities ...


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pp. 181-186


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pp. 187-198

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About the Authors, Back Cover

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pp. 219-222

Robert Bogdan, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Sociology and Disability Studies at Syracuse University, lives in rural Vermont, where he writes about the application of visual sociology to disability studies and other subjects. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780815651925
E-ISBN-10: 0815651929
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815633020
Print-ISBN-10: 0815633025

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 223 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2012