December 11, 2010

CHANGE 11.12.10

11 December 2010, 7.36 am

December 10, 2010


Doctor attending a patient, Kythera, 1920s

This is one of the most interesting and unusual images in the Kythera Photographic Archive. It shows a severely ill woman in bed, attended by a man, almost certainly a doctor, who is taking her pulse; he is holding an open watch in his left hand. What must be an ice pack lies on the patient’s head, suggesting an attempt to reduce a high fever; her forehead is protected by a napkin, while the pack is held in place by a string rising diagonally over the bed. The table holds two bottles, one of them probably containing medicine, an octagonal pill (?) box, an enameled drinking mug and a jug covered by a beaded cloth. The doctor's calf-length boots with their heavily studded soles are an indication of the state of the roads in the twenties.

The print, which is in poor condition, has been cut down at some point in its history. The truncated text was inscribed in china ink directly on the glass negative plate. It reads “Panayot[is]… by the side of the p[atient ?]”, or maybe “Panayot[a]”, possibly the name of the patient. Whatever the circumstances, it was a very unusual choice of subject, and, given the slow speed of film at the time, was almost certainly set up for the camera. We know the woman did not survive, since another photograph from the same source shows her on her deathbed – formal photographs of the dead, unlike this one, were not uncommon in prewar Kythera.

Gelatin chloride print, 23x26 cm. Ref. no. KPA 00070.