The Julie Dorrington Award for Outstanding Clinical Photography

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We are introducing a new award for clinical photography as part of the 2016 Wellcome Image Awards. The Julie Dorrington Award for Outstanding Clinical Photography is named in honour of one of the founding members of our clinical collection.

Photograph of a woman

Julie Dorrington in her role as Biomedical Collections Co-ordinator at the Wellcome Trust, 2002. Image credit: Wellcome Images reference: C0012234.

Julie joined what was then the Wellcome Medical Photo Library in 1993. Before that she had a long and successful career as a highly skilled professional clinical photographer at St Bartholemew’s Hospital, then teaching at the London School of Medical Photography.

With the Julie Dorrington Award, Wellcome Images have chosen to highlight the practice of clinical photography at a professional level and the service that it provides to medicine and medical education.

What is a clinical photograph?

A clinical photograph is a photographic image of an individual taken in order to demonstrate a clinical condition. Clinical photographers provide accurate documentation of a patient’s condition perhaps only once or over a period of treatment. Precision is required for images to be truly comparable and this can only be achieved with skill and attention, controlling all possible variables so that a clear comparison can be made.

Toenails after injury

Fingernail regrowth following injury. Image credit: University Hospital of North Durham, Wellcome Photo Library. Licence: CC-BY-NC-ND (Rights-managed image available from Wellcome Images reference: N0030656).

A good clinical photograph will accurately and sensitively depict the condition providing vital information about its characteristics for healthcare professionals. It will have clarity, show competency of technique and be aesthetically strong.

Viral warts on the hand of a young man

N0037040 Viral warts on the hand of a young man. Image credit: Meg Pearson, University Hospital Wales, Cardiff. Licence: CC-BY-NC-ND (Rights-managed image available from Wellcome Images reference: N0037040.

The photographs may be used purely for a patient case record or with permission also be used as a valuable teaching aid or published for example in books and journals. There are also occasions where images will be used as evidence in a legal case.

The clinical photographer

The history of clinical photography is almost as old as photography itself with some of the earliest recorded uses around 1840 but it wasn’t until almost 100 years later that the practice achieved professional recognition with such events as the establishment of the first Medical Illustration departments in the UK in 1945 and the development of recognised qualifications and professional advisory bodies such as the Biologic Photographic Association at Yale in the USA. This cemented the practice as being a valuable part of the patient’s healthcare experience and as an essential service to fellow health professionals.

N0036932 An elderly lady with Kyphosis (curvature of the spine)

An elderly lady with Kyphosis (curvature of the spine). Image credit: Mark Bartley, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Licence: CC-BY-NC-ND (Rights-managed image available from Wellcome Images reference N0036932.

Today the clinical photography profession is closely regulated, working to national standards with those who practice requiring registration. Photographic scales and pre-determined focal lengths ensure the majority of practitioners work to produce scientifically sound, comparable results. Professionals work to ethical standards, adhering to policies around consent, confidentiality and dignity in care.

Health professionals, medical researchers, medical students and clinical academics can sign up to our clinical collection to see over 36,000 contemporary images. If you do not come under any of the above categories then just get in touch to enquire further.

For more information about the 2016 Wellcome Image Awards and the Julie Dorrington Award or the collection contact Carly Dakin.

Look out for an article about a recently acquired collection of Victorian clinical photographs in next week’s Library blog.

Carly Dakin

Carly Dakin is Clinical Collections Coordinator for Wellcome Images.

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