Before and After - Henry Hering and Asylum Photography
Society photographer Henry Hering usually photographed politicians, aristocrats and celebrities from the arts - even Queen Victoria herself. It is therefore surprising that between 1857 and 1859 he made several visits to Bethlem Royal Hospital, then at St George’s Fields, Southwark. Hering photographed patients on the general wards as well as in its criminal department producing images which are quite unlike those from later periods of asylum photography He may have been attempting to document what was then known as the ‘physiognomy of insanity’ or to illustrate the success of a new approach at Bethlem, though no record of his intentions has been kept. Whatever his purpose, the enduring result is a striking record of institutional life in mid-Victorian Britain.