Thursday, July 29, 2010

Photographing the dead

I don't have a particular fascination with death, nor do I have a strong aversion. I considerate it to be part of our existence, and the way we mourn the passing of a loved one can be as important to our mental health as how we celebrate happy events.

That having been said, I was a bit surprised to discover this practice, the art of photographing the dead with the family, on a favorite site of mine, There, I Fixed It. The pictures at that post are both touching and mildly disturbing. Like this one:

Here's an excerpt:
Many of the subjects of the photos were young children, which reflects a definite change in regards to the decrease in the infant mortality rate in developed nations. Being the great equalizer that death is, people of all ages were memorialized this way. The bodies were preserved following certain procedures that are still practiced today with regards towards physical preservation (embalming with arsenic salts, alcohol, and formaldehyde) and dressed in their finest clothes.

Keep in mind that photography in the 19th century was an elaborate process; both time consuming and certainly expensive. For many people this was the only photo that would be taken of them.
I'm glad I learned of this old art. I don't particularly revel in such morbid topics, but I'm not shy, and this practice is moving in a way.

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