Dr Beatriz Pichel

Job: Associate Professor in Photographic History

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Humanities

Research group(s): Photographic History Research Centre

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 2506427

E: beatriz.pichel@dmu.ac.uk

W: https://www.dmu.ac.uk/phrc


Personal profile

Beatriz is specialist in photographic history, history of medicine and medical humanities, history of emotions and the cultural history of war. After finishing her degree in Philosophy at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM), she specialised in the history of sciences. Her PhD, awarded in 2012 (UAM), examined how photographic practices in First World War France shaped ideas and experiences of death at war. During her doctoral years, Beatriz developed great interest in photographic history, the history of the body and the history of emotions, and was fascinated by medical photography. In 2014, she joined the PHRC as a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow. Her postdoctoral project focused on photography and emotions in psychology and theatre at the turn of the nineteenth century in France. She has published on this topic in History of the Human Sciences (2015), Fotogeschichte (2016) and Media History (2018), and the collective volume on Emotional Bodies. The Historical Performativity of Emotions, co-edited with Dr Dolores Martin-Moruno and published with University of Illinois Press in 2019. Her first monograph, Picturing the Western Front. Photography, Practices and Experiences in First World War France (Manchester University Press, 2021) examines how photographic practices articulated war experiences. Beatriz is working on a new project, Photography and the Making of the Medical Sciences in France, 1860-1914, which has been awarded a British Academy Small Research Grant, and will be published as a monograph with Palgrave.

Beatriz supervises doctoral students working on photographic history, women's history, archives and collections, war history and more. She welcomes applications from prospective PhD students interested in the areas of photographic history, medical history, gender history and the history of emotions.

Research group affiliations

Publications and outputs

  • Photographic Sources in the History of Psychiatry
    dc.title: Photographic Sources in the History of Psychiatry dc.contributor.author: Pichel, Beatriz dc.description.abstract: This chapter provides tools for using photographic sources in the history of psychiatry. It demonstrates that photographs are very versatile sources that can be integrated into the history of psychiatry in different ways to explore the history of psychiatric categories and medical theories, patients’ experiences and more. The first section examines several case studies, from the renowned images made by Hugh Welch Diamond and Jean-Martin Charcot to lesser known materials. It discusses questions such as the supposed objectivity of photographs, the emergence of photographic protocols and the lack thereof, the circulation of photographs and practices among different institutions, the agency of patients, the relationship between photographs, text and other visual media and the impact of colonialism and criminology studies. The second section presents the main historiographical trends, from the influence of Foucauldian studies on power and the medical gaze to recent work on material practices. Lastly, the final section provides tips for searching medical photographs in archives and discusses the ethics of researching and publishing sensitive sources.
  • Picturing the Western Front. Photography, Practices and Experiences in First World War France
    dc.title: Picturing the Western Front. Photography, Practices and Experiences in First World War France dc.contributor.author: Pichel, Beatriz dc.description.abstract: Between 1914 and 1918, military, press and amateur photographers produced thousands of pictures. Either classified in military archives specially created with this purpose in 1915, collected in personal albums or circulated in illustrated magazines, photographs were supposed to tell the story of the war. Picturing the Western Front argues that photographic practices also shaped combatants and civilians' war experiences. Doing photography (taking pictures, posing for them, exhibiting, cataloguing and looking at them) allowed combatants and civilians to make sense of what they were living through. Photography mattered because it enabled combatants and civilians to record events, establish or reinforce bonds with one another, represent bodies, place people and events in imaginative geographies and making things visible, while making others, such as suicide, invisible. Photographic practices became, thus, frames of experience.
  • Emotional Bodies. The Historical Performativity of Emotions
    dc.title: Emotional Bodies. The Historical Performativity of Emotions dc.contributor.author: Pichel, Beatriz; Martin Moruno, Dolores dc.description.abstract: What do emotions actually do? Recent work in the history of emotions and its intersections with cultural studies and new materialism has produced groundbreaking revelations around this fundamental question. In Emotional Bodies, contributors pick up these threads of inquiry to propose a much-needed theoretical framework for further study of materiality of emotions, with an emphasis on emotions' performative nature. Drawing on diverse sources and wide-ranging theoretical approaches, they illuminate how various persons and groups—patients, criminals, medieval religious communities, revolutionary crowds, and humanitarian agencies—perform emotional practices. A section devoted to medical history examines individual bodies while a section on social and political histories studies the emergence of collective bodies. Contributors: Jon Arrizabalaga, Rob Boddice, Leticia Fernández-Fontecha, Emma Hutchison, Dolores Martín-Moruno, Piroska Nagy, Beatriz Pichel, María Rosón, Pilar León-Sanz, Bertrand Taithe, and Gian Marco Vidor. "This wide-ranging and rigorously historicized collection of essays gives new insights into how emotions have changed and been deployed over time. The stress on emotions as a practical engagement with the world that has tangible effects is especially welcome."--Jo Labanyi, editor of Constructing Identity in Contemporary Spain: Theoretical Debates and Cultural Practice
  • Photographing the Emotional Body. Performing Expressions in the Theatre and the Psychological Sciences
    dc.title: Photographing the Emotional Body. Performing Expressions in the Theatre and the Psychological Sciences dc.contributor.author: Pichel, Beatriz dc.description.abstract: This chapter examines the medical, chronophotographic and theatrical photographs taken in the 1890s by Albert Londe, Head of the Photographic Service at the Parisian hospital La Salpêtrière. Situating Londe’s production in the broader context of psychological and physiological theories of emotions emerging at the time, this chapter argues that photography became a key tool in the understanding of embodied expressions of emotions. Photographs served scientific and laypeople to grasp the gestures’ meaning, that is, the emotions that they were supposed to communicate, as well as their materiality, the nervous and muscular processes than produced them. This analysis demonstrates that photographic practices became performative practices which articulated emotional bodies
  • Reading Photography in French Nineteenth-Century Journals
    dc.title: Reading Photography in French Nineteenth-Century Journals dc.contributor.author: Pichel, Beatriz dc.description.abstract: This article explores how photographs published in the French medical and, to some extent, the popular press helped readers to interpret expressions and gestures as signs of emotional states, morbid conditions and physiological and psychological processes. The first two sections examine the use of photography to visualise normal and pathological bodies through measurements and experiments in the medical press, particularly Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpêtrière, Archives de Neurologie and L’Année Psychologique. The next two sections study how the development of new photographic processes such as the magnesium flash and chronophotography created new conditions in which the body could be visually scrutinised in the medical press as well as popular journals such as Le Théâtre and the general scientific journal La Nature. This analysis results in two main findings: 1) medical journals used photography to assert their own disciplinary identities, and 2) photography acted as a potential bridge between audiences, as some medical and popular journals shared the same beliefs regarding photography’s ability to represent the human body, but approached photographic innovations from different, albeit complementary, ways. dc.description: Open access article
  • Cuerpos patológicos. Fotografía y medicina en el siglo XIX
    dc.title: Cuerpos patológicos. Fotografía y medicina en el siglo XIX dc.contributor.author: Pichel, Beatriz dc.description.abstract: This article examines different approaches to nineteenth-century medical photography. It argues that we should go beyond the visual analysis to examine the material conditions in which photographs were taken and reproduced. It does so taking as a case study two illustrated journals: Iconographie photographique de la Salpêtrière (1875-1880) y Nouvelle iconographie de la Salpêtrière (1888-1918). An exhaustive analysis demonstrates that the different photographic practices materialised in each publication constructed visually and medically the hysterical body in a different way.
  • Illness and image. Case studies in the medical humanities by Sander L. Gilman
    dc.title: Illness and image. Case studies in the medical humanities by Sander L. Gilman dc.contributor.author: Pichel, Beatriz
  • Les Gueules Cases. Photography and the Making of Disfigurement
    dc.title: Les Gueules Cases. Photography and the Making of Disfigurement dc.contributor.author: Pichel, Beatriz dc.description.abstract: Between 1914 and 1918, French visual culture was saturated with photographs of amputees: ex-combatants who had lost an arm or a leg, and had substituted them for prosthetic devices. However, these pictures were all about body mutilations. Facial injuries were also profusely photographed, but barely penetrated into the French visual culture. This article explores the reasons behind this invisibility. Itmaintains that, during the war, bodily mutilations were associated with discourses on re-education, while facial wounds were connected to the rhetoric of reconstruction. This distinction, grounded on concerns about the function of the limbs and the appearance of the face, was the source of the sparse dissemination of photographs of facial injuries. It will be argued that these wounds became visible only when the focus shifted from the appearance to the social function of the face, and facial injuries began to be understood as ‘disfigurement’. dc.description: The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Die psychologie des lächelns bei Georges Dumas. Eine fotogeschiliche studie
    dc.title: Die psychologie des lächelns bei Georges Dumas. Eine fotogeschiliche studie dc.contributor.author: Pichel, Beatriz
  • De la SPA a los fotógrafos amateur. La cámara como instrumento de apropriación de la guerra
    dc.title: De la SPA a los fotógrafos amateur. La cámara como instrumento de apropriación de la guerra dc.contributor.author: Pichel, Beatriz dc.description.abstract: The Great War led to political, social and technological transformations that affected the development of late conflicts in Europe. But not all transformations were related to weaponry. This paper will examine the impact that the war had in the improvement of the relatively new technology of photography, and the ways in which photographic practices framed different war experiences. With this aim in mind, this paper will analysis several military and civil uses of photography in France, focusing on the two main collectives: the section photographique de l’armée, the military photographic service created in 1915 with the purpose of taken official images of the war, and the amateur photographers, which were soldiers and officers who brought their own cameras to the front. In both cases, this paper will examine the ways in which the military propaganda used photography to build and disseminate its messages. In particular, the focus of the analysis will be on how military services tried to control photographic practices, and how these practices penetrated into the civil society, who appropriated them. In this way, this paper will show that photography became a key technology for the French population during the war not only because photographs allowed the population to see what was happening. Above all, photography became essential because the uses of photographs and cameras allowed the appropriation of the conflict and its integration into family memory by means of the albums.

Click here to view a full listing of Beatriz Pichel's publications and outputs.

Key research outputs

  • 2021: Beatriz Pichel, Picturing the Western Front. Photography, Practices and Experiences in First World War France (Manchester: Manchester University Press)
  • 2019: Dolores Martin-Moruno and Beatriz Pichel (eds), Emotional Bodies. Studies on the Performativity of Emotions (Urbana: University of Illinois Press)

  • 2018: Reading Photography in French Nineteenth-Century Periodicals”, Media History, Special Issue “Working with Nineteenth-Century Medical and Health Periodicals” (online first), OA
  • 2016: “Les Gueules Cassées: Photography and the Making of Disfigurement”, Journal of War and Culture Studies Special Issue “Assessing the Legacy of the Gueules Cassées: From surgery to art”. Published online first.

  • 2016: “The Psychology of the Smile in Georges Dumas: A Photographic Study”, in Fotogeschichte. Summer, 140: 36, 13-24.
  • 2015: “From Facial Expressions to Bodily Gestures: Photography, Passions and Movement in Nineteenth-Century Sciences in France”, History of the Human Sciences, online first 27 December, vol 29 (1), 2016, pp. 27-48. OA. http://hhs.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/12/24/0952695115618592.full.pdf?ijkey=C9mKzGQyQGIxqMa&keytype=finite

Research interests/expertise

-        Photographic History / History of Photography

-        Medical Humanities

-        History of Medicine

-        Cultural History

-        History of Emotions

-        History of the Body

-        Gender and Women’s History

-        History of War

-        Visual Science and Technology Studies

Areas of teaching

  •  Photography History
  •  History
  • History of Science and Medicine
  • Gender History


  • PhD in History and Philosophy of Sciences, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain (2012)
  • M.A. in Sciences and Culture Studies, UAM, Spain (2008)
  • B.A. in Philosophy, UAM, Spain (2006)

Courses taught

I currently teach three undergraduate modules:

-        HIST2011 Visualising the Modern World

-        HIST3026 Photography and Conflict

-        HIST2022 From Newton to Nuclear: An Introduction to the History of Science

 I also lead the module MA History and MA English module "Conference Organisation and Presentation"

I collaborate teaching in other undergraduate modules in History, and postgraduate modules in the MA Photographic History


Honours and awards


Membership of professional associations and societies


Society for the Social History of Medicine


Photography and the Making of Modern Medicine in France (1870-1914)

British Academy/ Leverhulme Small Research Grant

January 2019- December 2020

This project will explore the emergence and development of medical photography in France between 1860 and 1914. The main outcome of this project will be a monograph, which will retell important episodes of the history of medicine such as the birth of experimental psychology and the development of specialised medical journals from a photographic point of view. By examining images as well as photographic materials and discourses, the book will argue that photographic practices contributed to the making of medical knowledge, the shaping of medical specialisms and the communication of scientific ideas. Unique in its scope and approach, this project aims to demonstrate the fundamental role that photography played in the shaping of the medical field in France and to provide a model of analysis of photographic sources that is useful for medical and cultural historians as well as photographic historians.


Forthcoming events


Conference attendance

“Engaging the senses in medical photography”, European Society for the History of Science, University of Bologna, Italy, 1-3 September 2020

“Photography and The Many Ways to Look at Patients”, European Association for the History of Medicine and Health, ‘Sense and Nonsense’ Conference, University of Birmingham, 28-30 August 2019

“Visualising Emotions and the Emotional Economy of Science”, History of Science Society Annual Conference, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, 24-27 July 2019

“The Business of Medical Photography”, PHRC Annual Conference ‘The Business of Photography’, De Montfort University, 17-18 June 2019

“Photography, History, Experience”, History of Experience: Theories, Concepts, Methods. Academy of Finland Centre for Excellence in the History of Experience HEX, University of Tampere, Finland, 4-6 March 2019

“Normalising the MedicalPortrait. Photographic Protocols in French Institutions Around 1900”. Society for the Social History of Medicine, Conference, 11-13 July 2018, University of Liverpool, UK

“Photographic Protocols in French Medical Institutions Around 1900”, Medicine in Focus. 10 May 2018, University of Leeds, UK

“Doctors and Patients at the Photographic Studio”, European Social Science History Conference, 4-6 April 2018, Belfast, Ireland

“The Multiple Meanings of Medical Photography: A French Case Study”. French Studies and the Medical Humanities, 10-11 November 2017, ILMR, UK

“The Multiple Meanings of Medical Photography”, British Society for the History of Medicine, 13-15 September 2017, Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, UK

“Photography, Physiology and Emotions at the Collège de France and beyond”, Reading Bodies, Writing Minds, 13th April 2017, University of Nottingham, UK

“Medicine in the Photographic Studio”, Society for Social History of Medicine Conference “Medicine in its place”, 7th -10th July 2016, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK.“Photographing Emotions in the Nineteenth Century”, Social History Society Conference, 21st -23rd March 2016, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK.

“Reading Photography in French Nineteenth Century Periodicals”, Workshop “Working with Nineteenth-Century Medical and Health Periodicals”, 30th May 2015, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

“Photographing the Emotional Body in the Nineteenth Century”, Colloquium “The History of the Body: Approaches and Directions”, 16th May 2015, Institute of Historical Research, London, UK.

“Portraying the Gueules Cassées: Photography and the Making of Disfigurement”, 1914FACES2014 Conference “Les gueules cassées: disfigurement and its legacies”, 12th 14th March 2015, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK.

“Between Science and Art. Chronophotographs and Drawings as Research Tools in Physiology (1895-1906)”, Hybrid Photography, 18th-21st February 2015, Freie Universität, Berlin.


Current research students

I currently supervise students working on the history of women institutional photographers in the nineneeth century, visual education in Imperial Britain and the historical photographic archive of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

I welcome research students interested in interdisciplinary projects on photographic history, the history of medicine, the history of emotions, women’s history and gender studies, cultural history, medical humanities and visual STS, as well as related disciplines.

Externally funded research grants information

British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant, Ref: SRG18R1\181193. Awarded for the project: “Photography and the Making of Modern Medicine in France (1860-1914)January 2019- December 2020.

Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Medical Humanities, Ref: 103101/Z/13/Z. Awarded for the project: “The Emotional Body: Medical and Theatrical Practices at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century in France”. Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University. February 2014- January 2016, non-costed extension until 31st of August 2016.

Wellcome Trust Small Grant: organization of the conference “Emotional Bodies”, Geneva, 20-22 October 2014

Internally funded research project information

Research Investment Fund (RIF 9), De Montfort University. Workshop “Visualising Reproduction in Medical, Social and Historical Contexts: An Interdisciplinary Inquiry”. July 2017 – July 2018.

Professional esteem indicators

Reviewer for History of the Human Sciences, Social History of Medicine, History of Photography, Journal of Humanitarian Action, etc.

Case studies

In relation to my article published in History of the Human Sciences (2015), I was interviewed in their new website http://www.histhum.com/?p=91

The recording of the presentation of my book Picturing the Western Front at the Royal Photographic Society is available here: https://youtu.be/4DQsOmSQKYg

“Oh What a Visual War”, Interview at On War & Society Podcast, Laurier Center for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies, 2021.

Invited blog posts

Beatriz Pichel, “Who cares? The Ethics and Emotions of Historical Medical Photography”, AboutFace project website, 2020 https://aboutfaceyork.com/2020/07/who-cares/

Beatriz Pichel, Katherine Rawling and Jennifer Wallis, “Historical Photographs as Sensitive Sources: Questions and Challenges”, Historical Transactions, Royal Historical Society, 2020 https://blog.royalhistsoc.org/2020/09/07/photographs-sensitive-sources/

 Harriet Palfreyman, Beatriz Pichel and Katherine Rawling: “Picturing Medicine: Visual and Material Culture as Historical Source”, The Polyphony, 2018 https://thepolyphony.org/2018/10/04/picturing-medicine-visual-and-material-culture-as-historical-source/

Beatriz Pichel, “Teaching History with Photographs”, Social History Society, Teaching Exchange, 2018, https://socialhistory.org.uk/shs_exchange/teaching-history-with-photographs/

Beatriz Pichel, “The Backstage of Hysteria”, Remedia, 2017, https://remedianetwork.net/2017/01/16/the-backstage-of-hysteria-medicine-in-the-photographic-studio/