William Henry Fox Talbot
Every conceivable object of Nature and Art will soon scale off its surface for us. Men will hunt all curious, beautiful, grand objects, as they hunt the cattle in South America, for their skins, and leave the carcasses as of little worth. – Oliver Wendel Holmes
Archives abounding in collections of nineteenth-century photographs contain numerous examples of works dealing with the subject of bodily anomalies. Information about such pictures being taken used to be published on a regular basis in daily press, in which the readership were notified about photo ateliers which immortalised a variety of “monstrosities”. Although it would seem that such pictures were taken solely for scientific purposes, the many and varied contexts of their use let us link them to a much older tradition of viewing and collecting visual curiosities. Having the above facts in mind, this article confronts the popular habits of photographing peculiarities in the 19th century, with museum practice and the Wunderkammers tradition. The space of a photograph may substitute exhibition space, while a desire to watch all kinds of abnormalities and the culture of curiosity determines the connection between former museum visitors and recipients of photographs.