22 June 2008
Facial prostheses as badges of courage
The image above was posted at Flickr, with an explanatory story at opheliaswims. Found at an estate sale, it is a latex prosthesis for someone who presumably had a deforming facial injury or illness - somewhat reminiscent of the famous mask for the Broadway version of Phantom of the Opera.
When I saw this image, I was reminded of a National Geographic story that ran last February, describing the "Tin Noses Shop" in London that created facial prostheses for soldiers returning from WWI. The topography of the war - trenches from which one had to poke one's head out to locate the enemy - resulted in an enormous number of disfiguring lesions. The London General Hospital recruited not just physicians and surgeons, but artists and technicians who created masks that allowed returning soldiers to reenter the public sphere with greater dignity. The article is worth a read, and there is an accompanying photo gallery illustrating the professionalism of the work.