With this new publication, comprised of contemporary photographs as well as archival material, Austrian photographer Simon Brugner (born 1983) investigates a surprisingly common historical belief that the consumption of arsenic, a deadly poison, could be beneficial to one’s health. Many “poison eaters” could be found among the Austrian rural population in the 19th century; they ate white or yellow arsenic produced by roasting arsenic-containing minerals. Arsenic eaters were robust people, and usually of the lower class of society: wood cutters, charcoal burners, stablemen and foresters who ingested arsenic to be “strong and healthy.”
In the first part of this volume, Brugner tries to link past and present, imagining a reality in which the obscure habit of arsenic eating is conceivable. The second part presents Brugner’s research into the practice based on medical papers from the 19th and early 20th centuries and on-location findings.