Womb with a view
November 22, 2006 7:52 AM   Subscribe

In the Womb: Animals is an upcoming National Geographic special that does for animals what the 1983 broadcast of NOVA's Miracle of Life (and the 2001 update, Life's Greatest Miracles) did for our appreciation of fetal development. Lennart Nilsson would be proud.
posted by scblackman (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
we also inserted cameras into the womb via the elephant's rectum

Wait, huh?

Cool stuff, though. That elephant looks like CGI.
posted by amro at 7:59 AM on November 22, 2006

Obligatory Jonathan Coulton link.

posted by blueshammer at 8:29 AM on November 22, 2006

Wow. Those photos are AMAZING! Thanks scblackman :O)
posted by algreer at 10:46 AM on November 22, 2006

Are these really from fetuses and mothers that were living/intact/viable? The Nilsson ones of human fetuses and embryos were all aborted or otherwise stillborn.

They're amazing tho--thanks!
posted by amberglow at 4:43 PM on November 22, 2006

The Nilsson ones of human fetuses and embryos were all aborted or otherwise stillborn.

Are you sure? I haven't been able to find any documentation of this. (Yes, the photos taken outside the womb are obviously from aborted or miscarried/stillborn fetuses. But the things I read make it sound like the in-womb shots are different.) I ran across an interview where he talks about taking the photos during amniocentesis & with an endoscope & laproscopy.

"NOVA: The mother must have loved seeing her unborn child in such detail.

LN: Oh yes! She was absolutely proud, happy, happy. It was like a portrait!"
posted by belladonna at 8:06 AM on November 23, 2006

yup--99.99% sure for all the older pics--he may be using the tiny scopes with lights stuck inside women now, but there's evidence in the original unretouched photos from the older pics. The first edition of his book came out decades ago and lighting like this wasn't really possible inside a viable womb still inside a woman then.

The scopes and things he speaks of are very recent innovations, and also he's been doing this since way before there was digital manipulation of photos.

marking up pins and the things propping them up to get them ready for print was a weird, unsettling experience
posted by amberglow at 11:47 AM on November 23, 2006

It's actually a real irony--most pro-life groups use the pics too, and i don't think they know.
posted by amberglow at 11:50 AM on November 23, 2006

A Child is Born first was published in 1965. -- ... At the end of the 40’s, when he was assigned to do a portrait of a professor at Sabbatsbergs Hospital in Stockholm, he happened to see some embryos stored in glass jars. The fact that the development of the embryos was so far progressed at just a few weeks of age so captured his attention that he photographed them. In 1953, he showed the photos to the American Life Magazine (where he was under contract as a photographer from 1965-1972). They were met with such enthusiasm that they were published, and he was encouraged to continue photographing the origins of man. This lead to Lennart Nilsson’s famous book, "A child is born", which was first published in 1965 and has since been published in four editions in over twenty countries. The latest edition was published in September 2003. ...

(his original publisher)
posted by amberglow at 11:57 AM on November 23, 2006

more from Alternet: ... Although Life described Nilsson's photographs as "life before birth," the embryos and fetuses he photographed were actually already dead, culled from the wombs of women who, under Sweden's liberal reproductive-rights policies, had terminated their pregnancies. "Working in cooperation with doctors in Sweden," writes Newman, "where any privileged American women of sufficient means obtained abortions during the '60s, Nilsson perfected photographic techniques for chronicling embryonic development." Nilsson sloughed off placenta, backlit his subjects, manipulated environments to achieve these glowing apparitions. Their contours would define anti-abortion-propaganda aesthetics for the ages. ...
posted by amberglow at 12:07 PM on November 23, 2006

Thanks for the info, Amberglow. I was just reading "A Child is Born" earlier today (wondering what the kidlet inside me looks like right now); I'm not sure I'll be able to look at the book with the same sense of wonder anymore.

I can't wait to see the National Geographic show about the animals, though!
posted by belladonna at 7:13 PM on November 23, 2006

sorry if i burst a bubble or anything about them--they really are amazing pics and it was historic. And mazel tov, hon! : >
posted by amberglow at 10:10 AM on November 24, 2006

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