Nilsson’s images forever changed the way that people think about fetuses. His haunting pictures made it possible for a woman, and her society, to visualize the contents of her womb and to do so independently of her body. Notice how the images do not depict the relationship between the fetus and the woman… they simply depict the fetus. Suddenly, with these images, the fetus came to life. It was no longer just something inside of a woman, it was an individual with a face, a sex, a desire to suck its thumb.
In the 1970s, the pro-life movement began using the images. Once the fetus could be idividualized, arguments in favor of its preservation could be made more powerfully. The beautiful photos, further, romanticized the fetus, discouraging abortion. The pictures served to suggest, essentially, that fetuses weren’t so different from babies.
This testifies to the power of visualization and how technological advances can have significant political ramifications.
There is more, though, to Nilsson’s photographs.
It turns out that the photographs are not of fetuses in the womb, they are photographs of aborted fetuses."
I was always really bothered by these images as a child, and confronted two teachers and my mother. They all told me these pictures, the impossible lighting*, was possible somehow. Nisslon wouldn’t lie! I feel somewhat vindicated, and a bit mad. I want to see how he took these pictures.
*I mean, mood lighting, in the womb. It made me angry as a kid just thinking about it.
Not sure what’s going on here, but it’s certainly beautiful.