Man kneeling over photo studio set-up

Origins of the photo lab

In 1930, Mass General hired photographer Wilbour C. Lown to be the hospital’s medical photographer, creating a studio in the Bulfinch basement. Prior to that, the hospital had contracted with an outside photographer but it was not enough to meet the hospital’s needs, which included photographs for medical records and journal articles, medical textbooks, and slides for lectures. Medical photography at Mass General had officially begun in 1890 when a donor provided the funds for a small apothecary and photography studio in an outbuilding of the Bulfinch. At first, the apothecary (pharmacist) was also the hospital photographer; while some skills from pharmacy were translatable to darkroom photo development, by the 1920s it became clear that there was too much work for one person to do both roles.