Thursday, 12 November 2009

PICTURES OF THE DEAD



The VV will not dwell on this subject, but it should be noted that one significant application of photography in the Victorian era was to create a permanent record of the deceased.

Some pictures showed the dead as if they were still alive, clothed in their Sunday best, even arranged in a 'living' pose side by side with parents or other siblings. The concept may appear bizarre - not to say horrific - today. But, for many poorer families, this would have been the single occasion on which they could justify the expense of a professional photographer. And, although we now take it for granted that family snapshots record the lives of our loved ones over the years, that single post-mortem image may have been the only visible record of a once cherished life.

I have only posted one image. Most were too distressing. Here, the living children beside their dead sibling look so brave and resigned. They are blurred, almost 'ghostly', and that is because of the the lengthy period needed for the photograph to be exposed, during which time they would have moved -whereas their dead sister would not. 

4 comments:

  1. Cynthia Barlow Marrs14 November 2009 19:39

    Very moving, thank you for this. Sorry it took me so long to read it -- lots of catching up to do on the Virtual Victorian

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Cynthia. It is a moving photograph - the pictures of other relatives on the walls - the doll behind the bed. To post it seemed almost like an invasion of privacy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have a few such pictures of some my ancestors siblings. Yes, they are rather distressing to look at...

    ReplyDelete
  4. That's quite something to own, Neo-Victorianist - must be particularly moving if the pictures are of your own relations.

    ReplyDelete