Point and Shoot: The Battle for Medical Photography in Norway

  • Bård Kjersem

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisProfessional Doctorate (ProfD)


At the beginning of the 1990’s digital imaging began to supersede film-based imaging, and one specialist in the field (Mitchell) declared photography dead or, more precisely, radically and permanently displaced.

In Norway it has been argued that, due to ever-accelerating digitisation, the technological development of photography and illustration had reached such a high level of sophistication that doctors and nurses could now do their own photography and design.

I picked up Mitchell’s thread and investigated Norwegian medical photography’s displacement after the hospital management where I work shifted its focus from a public health care system to one structured along New Public Management (NPM) lines.

Karl Marx’s and Martin Heidegger’s philosophies regarding technology and automation formed my theoretical framework. I adopted a pragmatic mixed methods approach to identify how medical photographers experience their working life and to investigate the increasing deskilling of Norwegian medical photography. The quantitative phase took the form of a survey at five Norwegian University Hospitals to identify people involved in medical photography. I found out about their photographic background and investigated their working routines. This was followed by a qualitative phase drawing on an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis approach incorporating semi-structured interviews with four professional and four lay photographers.

The data revealed that 1) only two of five university hospitals employ medical photographers 2) the majority of the professional photographers welcomed the arrival of digital photography as something that made their working life easier 3) the apparent simplicity of digital photography provided a rationale for moving medical photography from the professional photographers to doctors and nurses, and 4) the uncritical belief in technological development coupled with the prioritising of economic results were the primary forces leading to a decrease in the number of medical photographers at Norwegian hospitals. Despite the erosion of their job security, the professionals retained their pride in their craftsmanship and found that delivering high quality work was fulfilling and rewarding. The lay photographers for their part were not satisfied with their photographs and therefore do not take the same pride in their photographic craftsmanship as the professionals do. The remaining professionals eventually accepted that only a form of accommodation with NPM would provide them with any chance of survival in this changing landscape.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
SupervisorJamie Frankis (Supervisor), Larissa Kempenaar (Supervisor) & Hugh O'Donnell (Supervisor)

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