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Jo Spence enacting her hospital experience.

  • Spence, Jo
Part of
A picture of health?
  • Pictures

About this work

Also known as

How do I begin?


Half-body self-portrait of Jo Spence, with her chest wrapped in white muslin secured with two nappy pins and a cross in black marker pen on skin above her left breast.



Physical description

1 photograph : colour print ; sheet 51 x 40.5 cm, frame 63.7 x 50.4 cm

Biographical note

Jo Spence (1934 - 1992) started as a commercial photographer, from the 1970s she moved to critical documentary photography. In 1974 she met her long-term collaborator, Terry Dennett, with whom she established the Photography Workshop Ltd. Her work was both politically aware and personal, considering social issues, sexuality, power and health. She worked collaboratively throughout her career, in the 1970s and early 80s with the Hackney Flashers and Polysnappers, and in 1984, she developed Photo-therapy with Rosy Martin. Diagnosed with cancer in 1982 much of her subsequent work reflected her experiences, including the A picture of Health? series (1982-86). In 1990 she was diagnosed with leukemia, and The Final Project work was a response to this. She wrote extensively, and in 1984 published Putting myself in the picture.


Jo Spence. 1984. Jo Spence enacting her hospital experience. [Photograph]. Wellcome Collection: Library no. 3049453i

References note

Spence, J. (1986) Putting myself in the picture, page 179.

Creator/production credits

Created in collaboration with Rosy Martin.


This work is untitled. The image was refered to as 'How do I begin?' by the Richard Saltoun gallery.
The photograph was included in 'A picture of health?' project (1982-86).
The photograph was part of a photo therapy session with Rosy Martin, images from which are reproduced in 'Putting myself in the picture' (1986), page 179. This explains it was 'restaging the drama of going into hospital'.
Former Richard Saltoun stock code: JOS816.

Ownership note

Purchased by Wellcome Collection in 2016 from the Estate of Jo Spence.


  • English

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