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  Hugh Welch Diamond

Hugh Welch Diamond, "the father of clinical photography," was born in Kent, England in 1809. Like his father William Batchelor Diamond, who was a surgeon for the East India Company, he studied medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons and St. Bartholomew's Hospital before establishing his practice in Soho Square. His specialty was psychiatry, which he studied at Bethlem Hospital under the watchful of Sir George Tuthill. In 1848, Dr. Diamond was named resident superintendent of the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum and served in this capacity for the next decade.

During his tenure at the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum, Dr. Diamond began studying and experimenting with the relatively new medium of photography. He dabbled in glass plate collodion and calotype processes He approached photography from both artistic and philosophical perspectives, believing that the camera's lens revealed a scientific truth that provided invaluable knowledge on effective patient diagnoses and treatment. Beginning in 1852, Dr. Diamond published a series of articles in the professional photographic journal Notes and Queries on such topics as popular photographic methods, French collodion techniques, and successful scientific applications. His paper, "On the Simplicity of the Collodion Process," which he presented to the Photographic Society of London in November 1853 was later reprinted in various industry publications. A founding member of the Journal of the Photographic Society of London, Dr. Diamond was named editor in 1858, a position he held for ten years. At various times he also served as secretary and vice president. By 1860, he enjoyed an elite industry status comparable to such photographic pioneers as Julian Cameron, Roger Fenton, Henry Peach Robinson, and William Henry Fox Talbot.

Dr. Diamond regarded his camera as an important tool of his trade. He employed patient photography in the same way as his colleagues utilized drawings to illustrate treatment methodologies. He fervently believed that portraiture provided therapeutic insights into insanity that enabled clinicians to develop more successful treatment alternatives. In a lecture he presented to the Royal Society of Medicine in May 1856 entitled, “On the Application of Photography to the Physiognomic and Mental Phenomena of Insanity,” he discussed what he believed to be the three most important functions of psychiatric photography, which were to assist in individual patient treatment, to provide a permanent record for further analysis, and to offer the patient visual evidence that would ultimately lead to self-help.

In 1858, Dr. Diamond resigned his position at Surrey County Lunatic Asylum to open Twickenham House, a private asylum for female patients in Middlesex. He served as Twickenham's resident physician for the remainder of his life. Although he no longer actively engaged in psychiatric photography, he nevertheless continued to be active within the photographic industry and was a frequent contributor to several journals. He received a well-deserved medal of excellence from the Royal Photographic Society in 1867. Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond died at Twickenham on June 21, 1886.

1888 The Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. XV (New York: Macmillan and Co.), p. 1.

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 415-416.

1996 Framing the Victorians: Photography and the Culture of Realism by Jennifer Green-Lewis (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press), pp. 145-147.

2014 Luminous Lint (URL:

1999 Visual Culture: The Reader by Jessica Evans & Stuart Hall (London: SAGE Publications Ltd.), pp. 255.256.

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2014-08-30 20:15:02

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