Capturing Epidemics: Photographs by Nicolai Howalt
When epidemics strike, we are overwhelmed. We’re losing control. Disease spreads, escalates and societal structures collapse. People get sick and die and Pandora’s box is long opened before we understand what’s at stake. An epidemic is far from the sterile, controlled conditions we associate with science.
Epidemics – from plague to cholera and from tuberculosis to covid-19 – are complex quantities that attack individuals and entire communities at once. Bacteria and viruses are constantly evolving and finding new ways to start outbreaks. To regain control, medical science tries in various ways to capture and perpetuate the epidemics. To close the disease matter inside bottles and tubes. To detect and visualize bacteria in the light of the microscope and the colors of the lenses. To limit epidemics by isolating the sick from the healthy. To curb viruses and bacteria by making them overcome in vaccines.
The photographs in the exhibition, like medical science, try to capture epidemics. They display the museum’s artifacts and capture moments of historical epidemics. They capture and capture these objects in the frame of the photograph just as science has captured and captured bacteria on lens.