On May 14, 1796, Edward Jenner performed a now famous medical experiment on an 8-year-old boy named James Phipps. He was testing out his theory that people who had been infected with the mild disease cowpox could not contract smallpox, one of the deadliest diseases in human history. To do this, he cut the boy’s skin and inserted the pus from a cowpox sore. A few days later, he challenged Phipps with smallpox, but he never succumbed. Phipps had become immune to the disease.
This experiment marked the first important step towards the global eradication of smallpox, which was officially achieved almost 200 years later, and is represented in the image above. (If you’re wondering where the beautiful woman fits in, she is highlighting the fact that the disease does not discriminate between the rich and the poor).
The thought-provoking piece, which was shot by Australian photographer Alexia Sinclair, is part of a wider collection of art by more than 30 world-renowned photographers, painters, sculptors, writers, filmmakers and musicians. The idea behind it is to share with us the stories behind the success of vaccination, which are stories of “risk and bravery, the passion and dedication of scientists, the love of parents, and the determination of health workers.” Of course, there is a wider message that the artists hope to convey: vaccinations save lives, and they’ve helped change the world for good.
The compilation is called The Art of Saving a Life, and it will be unveiled throughout January in order to promote the importance of vaccination during the run up to a huge fundraising meeting at the end of the month. The event, which will be held on January 27th, is organized by Gavi, a global vaccine alliance, who are seeking $7.5 billion over the next five years to deliver vaccines to 300 million children. If they are successful, they believe 6 million lives could be saved.
Here is a sample of the evocative work, which we can thank the Gates Foundation for as this philanthropic organization commissioned the work:
Flowers—The Beauty of Vaccines, by Vik Muniz
While this may look a bit like wallpaper, the image was actually created using cells. As Muniz explains: “The artwork is a microscopic pattern of liver cells infected with a smallpox vaccine virus. After infection, the virus turns the cells a reddish color which allows scientists to visualize infection.”
Vaccines as Love Serum—Mauro Perucchetti
Using pigmented resin, Perucchetti has combined two of his most famous sculptres: Jelly Baby Family and Love Serum, which could “inoculate the whole world.” The idea is to bring a smile to children and remove both the fear of needles and parents’ skepticism of their effectiveness.
The Girl Who Kicked the Ball—Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
This digital animation is “a metaphorical portrayal of the poliovirus as aliens and the human spirit that defeated it by creating the anti-virus in a ‘vaccine.’” Mehra hopes that the film portrays the power of immunization and shows us a brighter future if we take a stand against disease.