Thursday, April 23, 2009

Seeing Through

In many years of finding, collecting and selling photographs, this one has a special place.

It was discovered on a house call, where I'd gone to look at a carving, and by habit asked if there were any old photos for sale. The gentleman left the room and returned with this in his hand. He was descended from a horse-and-buggy era physician in middle Georgia. Somewhere near the turn of the century, the doctor and a partner had ordered the very latest technology, an X-ray machine. In order to demonstrate its capabilities, he took this image of a hand covering a coin. I viewed it as one of the earliest known experimental photographs taken in this part of the world. The doctor thought enough of it to have it framed, and I imagine that it hung in his office as a marvel for all to see.

I offered it to a regional museum curator for their collection. She laughed at me and dismissed it with "We don't collect x-rays." I had the satisfaction of selling it to the next person who saw it, a major photography collector. That collector has told me that even among all the jewels in her collection, this image gets its share of attention from people who visit.

The image below was taken by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who discovered the medical use when he saw a picture of his wife's hand on a photographic plate formed due to X-rays. His wife's hand's photograph was the first ever photograph of a human body part using X-rays.

Pretty cool images.


  1. Does anyone else remember standing on an xray machine in a shoe store (Buster Brown, I think) and seeing the bones in their feet?

  2. I never saw that machine, but I've heard Poll Parrot shoe stores had them. Safe as milk.

  3. These are wonderful. I love both images but that first one, wow! The color is so interesting, almost the color of bone.

    And I remember my mother talking about those shoe store machines. I'd forgotten about those. Big novelty item to get the customers in and then leave their feet as night lights for the next few weeks. I'm kidding...of course, but the people did hope it would happen.

  4. I had my feet x-rayed and Jellin'
    Don't hurt no more, off they've fellin"

  5. Poetic license is a privilege, not a right, Jim.