Lennart Nilsson’s A Child Is Born: The Many Lives of a Best-Selling Pregnancy Advice Book
Solveig Jülich: Department of History of Science and Ideas, Uppsala University, Sweden
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This article examines the circulations and transformations of photographer Lennart Nilsson’s pregnancy advice book Ett barn blir till (A Child Is Born) through its five Swedish editions from 1965 to 2009 as well as some of the translations in English and other languages. Published by Bonnier, the leading media company in Sweden, the book combines images and texts to dramatise the story of conception, foetal development and pregnancy. In particular, the aim is to explore how various commercial, cultural and material processes have co-produced and changed the identity of A Child Is Born. Inspired by research on the biography of things, the article traces the life-course of the book and the photographic material it includes. Two principles of transformation are emphasised. In the first process, the book, although undergoing significant changes, preserved a material and discursive unity and moved in relatively fixed domains. This movement occurred in relation to an origin that can be understood in terms of creativity, authorship and copyright. The second process did not require the integrity of a creative work. Rather, it was the intense features of the book and its images, their affective and iconic power, which enabled the circulations and appropriations. It is argued that Nilsson’s book could be described as a thoroughfare for images and texts in constant motion, instead of a fixed and stable object. Entangled in a culture of circulation, it has taken on a dynamic of its own and has moved as much through accident as through design. In these changes, the book has become self-reflexive in its adjustments over a range of arenas and milieus. The life of (the images in) A Child Is Born encompasses many lives, each ensnared in the trajectories and transformations of others.

Keywords: Lennart Nilsson 1922–; A Child Is Born; reproductive medicine; medical photography; pregnancy advice books; book and media history; 20th-century history; Sweden

Volume 7, Theme:: Open section Peer-reviewed research articles

, Article 8, 2015

Solveig Jülich
Lennart Nilsson’s A Child Is Born: The Many Lives of a Best-Selling Pregnancy Advice Book:
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