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Prosthetic Devices Research Project, UC Berkeley, Ca. 1942-1946

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I’ve labored over a suitable introduction to these photographs for too long, trying to find the right tone, the right thing to say about something that’s far beyond anything I’ve ever seen, let alone experienced. With no hope of easing into things gradually, I figure it’s best to simply relay the facts and let the images do the rest.

We came across the following photographs at a local flea market while shopping for ugly belt buckles and used baseball gloves. All of the photos were found in a three-ring binder, prefaced by a number of schematic renderings on graph paper detailing experimental mechanical limb replacements (compiled by engineer Don O. Honing).

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Multiple subjects are featured, each the survivors of wartime grenade injuries. What follows is some of the strangest and starkly beautiful found photography I’ve ever seen:

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Even the process of fitting and testing is documented with an arresting combination of curious fascination, aesthetic awareness and respect to those involved.

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The next four images (by far the best of the set) fully capture the idealized intentions of both the project and the Post-war era. But beyond that, they offer an accidental political commentary that is at once haunting and prophetic. Too relevant and too close to home these days, I find it impossible to dismiss these photographs as mere flea market detritus . . .

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To see the entire set of images check out http://flickr.com/photos/artgoodhitlerbad/tags/prostheticlimbs/

Discussion

2 comments for “Prosthetic Devices Research Project, UC Berkeley, Ca. 1942-1946”

  1. Hey. This is absolutely fascinating! I don’t suppose there is any chance that you would have all of the text pages of this binder photographed as well? I want to learn more abou the project and the devices.

    Cheers
    Chris

    Posted by Chris | June 11, 2007, 12:29 pm
  2. Chris,

    Unfortunately, there a a ton of pages in the binder which would require a huge amount of time to document. While it is indeed interesting stuff, we chose to focus on the artistic value of the photos. I did document all of the photos on the Flickr site, which you can check out by clicking on any of the images.

    Charles

    Posted by Charles | June 11, 2007, 2:04 pm

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