Thursday, 24 September 2009

post-mortem photography.

Post-mortem photography was very popular in the nineteenth century.
Though the act of photographing the propped up deceased in this century would be seen as vulgar, sick, taboo, in the Victorian Era the practice of post-mortem photography (also know as memento mori) was common place among families in which an infant or child had died. The child mortality rate in the Victorian Era was very high, though there is no proper figure that I can give you as record were spotty (though anesthetics were invented in 1846).
Post-mortem photography gained its initial popularity with the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839, making it possible for middle class families who could not afford a portrait of the deceased to have a photography session with their dead. It is very possible that the child or infant photographed after their mortality had never had a single other photograph or portrait of them taken. Weird thing, these post-mortem photographs were often copied and mailed to relatives, like year book photos. Such cultural differences.

By any means, this practice gained most of its popularity in the late nineteenth century but nearly died off, apart for formal photographs of post-mortem authority figures, by the twentieth century, as "snap shot" photography had then been invented which allowed families to take pictures of their living on more of a day-to-day basis.

Andres Serrano is the closest thing, in modern times, to a post-mortem photographer, with his Corpse series, which was met with ample controversy and disgust.