Saturday, May 2, 2009

Victorian Postmortem Photography

They're not just dead people, they're dead people propped up in chairs or held by the living. Victorian Postmorts make the uninitiated ask "WHY?????" So, here is why. In those olden days of.....olde.....the majority of people did not have cameras. Many did not even have a photographer nearby. Rich families had portraits painted, the poor and middle class got their pics taken at weddings, or not at all. Therefore, there would be no record of what a person looked like before they died. Often the only picture ever taken was post-death. Some of these people look alive. Some look eerie. Some had photographers nearby, some had to send a letter (no phones, folks) and wait, while their dead loved one did what dead people do, perhaps reposing on ice or hopefully somewhere chilly. You don't want a dead person hanging around your house in the summer. So, these pictures are artistic, creepy, sad, and haunting. NONE OF THESE POSTMORTS ARE MINE, credit goes to paulfrecker.com and thanatos.org.
In case you're new to postmorts, I'll start you off with some a little easier on the eyes.....
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Yeah, she's a goner. Check the script. "taken 9 days after death" Obviously preserved well and propped up nicely. Looks alive, doesn't she?
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Very artistic. Either the photographer was creative or the family was.
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Very nicely done. Twins, I think. The grief is captured well, and victorian postmorts of black children are rare, for obvious reasons.
Now, we get into the babies and children.
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Artistic. Don't think I would have picked butt-nekkid though.
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Very touching, you don't often see a dad holding a deceased infant. Notice how he is holding his/her little hand. I suspect either the mother died as well, or was too distraught to be photographed. The look on his face...
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This girl seems severly annoyed posing with her sibling.
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The baby really could have been displayed nicer. Really, it looks like it was thrown on like a ragdoll. The expressions the living children wear are quite sad. The little girl does not look well at all.
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Whole family this time, wearing expressions like they've done this before.

And now, remember how I mentioned the letter sent and the photographer taking awhile to get to the house? Dead kid sitting around = nightmare juice. This isn't the worst I've seen, but take a deep breath here.
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Yeah.

6 comments:

  1. its a very interesting subject.

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  2. wow. where did you find these?

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  3. I'd like to point out that-

    First photo. Just because someone wrote that on the frame, doesn't make it true. This is not what a corpse looks like nine days after death (look up the decomposition process), no matter how much propping up one does. I'd like to see if there is any further provenance to the photograph other than what someone, at some point in history, wrote around the edge. If I buy a 150 year old photo today and write a story on it, it doesn't make it true.

    Last photo- It appears that the body is in rigor mortis, which let's up after a day or two after death, thus meaning, not sitting around long. Still, dear heaven.

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    1. I've seen the first photo many places and always assumed the story was true. The first place I saw it, there was quite a write-up with it. I wondered if it could have been during the winter months, where the body could have been kept very cool.
      My dad was born in Wisconsin. His parents both said they wanted to die in the spring or summer, so they wouldn't have to "wait" to be buried. Unfortunately, both died the end of October years where the deep snows came early. Thus, both were put in storage until spring thaw.
      Granted, none of the family had to see them, or photograph them, just...

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  4. I find your comments quite flippant in the circumstnces It obviously was the thing to do in those days and it is not a subject for cheap titilation

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  5. Did anyone else notice (in the last picture) the woman's face by the child's right arm?

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