chapter  3
18 Pages

Patient self- care

Filling the frame of Otto Umbehr’s (Umbo’s) photographic Portrait of Ruth Landshoff (The Hat) is the borderless close-up of a young German actress. Her half-turned movement out of the frame helps to shield her from the bright light of the public gaze. So too do the shadow draped by the hat above her eyes and the bleached authenticity washing the lower half of her face. At the same time, this cosmetically manufactured appearance – including dark lipstick, slightly open mouth and wide brimmed, latticed hat – coyly solicits approval from the public light. This image gives symbolic form to the active but exposed and vulnerable role played by many patients today across private-public spaces on the stage of modern health care. The quasi-public light of this care makes increasingly visible how patients act. Believing that those who see them tend to judge them – for example on their physical appearance – these patients may put on their best face to give at least a picture of the health of their socialized body and life. Prompted also to look for things wrong inside themselves, they may use this picture to mask anxiety about their inner health1,2 and reinforce their selfconscious need to become increasingly risk-conscious and health abiding. This behaviour reflects and feeds apprehension of a ‘dark side’ of healthy self-care as a regulative ideal of ‘good citizens’ in late modern society.3