What ever happened to . . .

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Sjixxxy, Sep 12, 2004.

  1. Sjixxxy

    Sjixxxy Member

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    . . . the post-mortem photo? Not evidence, autopsy, or similar stuff that gets posted at rotten.com for pure shock value, or the work like Joel-Peter Witkin does. I mean the old tastefully done final photo of somebody for the family album which was once a very common practice, but now seems to be almost a taboo.

    I thought this practice had died out around the same time that tin was no longer the favorite base for an image, but a few months ago I was flipping through a scrapbook with my mother that my aunt has been keeping forever. In it were two photos from 1955 of my grandma's funeral which got me thinking about the subject since for a change it was a face that I could put a name on insetad of some annoymous person from teh victorian era. It was one of the most moving images in the album, especially for my mother who was only 7-8 at the time and had only the faintest memory of the event, and her mother. I didn't think the images were sick, wrong, perverted or out of place, but rather served some good purposes. They let me see the niceties that were spent on the final presentation that no one will probably see until an archeologist in 7532 digs it up and puts on a History channel special, as well as work done by the mortician did with her for presentation. And most importantly, probably took just a little bit of the fear out of the last step in life.

    So why did this practice pretty much disappear? (I have an idea, but will save it for now)
     
  2. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    That is an interesting question. It would seem that as basic a human desire it is to keep a final memento of a loved one's image would not change with the times. Perhaps it is that, as photographic snapshooting became more commonplace, it is far more likely that people have more recently taken pictures of loved ones in life and therfore don't need to call in a photographer to record that final remembrance.
     
  3. bmac

    bmac Member

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    I think most people would rather remember their loved ones how they looked when they were alive as opposed to how they looked once dead.
     
  4. jim kirk jr.

    jim kirk jr. Member

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    I could be wrong and this is just an opinion-I agree that tastefully done it could be a beautiful momento but times have changed.The advent of photography as something everyone can enjoy(ie-snapshots,family albums and now digital along with home videos)has replaced with images of life what formerly people could afford to have done very rarely(at death).Since it's readily available I believe people in general would rather celebrate through images a loved ones life.But as I said this is only an opinion.
     
  5. Magic Rat

    Magic Rat Member

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    My mother is a true shutterbug. When her sister died she took a snap of her at her viewing. She told me it was because it's the last time she'll see her. Knowing my mom I was comfortable with her decision. Although, I told her if I go first she's not allowed to do that. I am with Brian on this one. I had no idea this was once a fad. I seriously doubt that if my daughter were to pass away a picture of her dead would in any way be meaningful to me. But that's just me.
    The Rat
     
  6. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    I've seen images of these from my parents era and my ex-mother-in-law had a few :sad: I always felt and feel they are very spooky and for me I can tell they are dead. Not sure if thats because there's something missing that the camera cannot capture or if 4 years in the police service means I saw too many real bodies to forget the look.
     
  7. livemoa

    livemoa Member

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    I wrote some stuff on this for a history paper at university. Often Post Mortem pictures where the only ones that people had. For many people having a photograph taken was very expensive. Money that could be better spent on food, clothing and shelter rather than on portraits of family members. They were most common in the late 19th century, but still exist today in some communities. With the rise of more affordable portraiture and cheaper cameras (thank you Mr Eastman,) the practice began to diminish as more people had existing photographs to remind them of the departed.
     
  8. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    Man,
    This thread is spooking me out! I didn't know that photographs of this kind existed until I saw a spooky movie a couple of years ago. I think Nicole Kidman was in it. Anyhoo, at one point, she was looking through a suitcase of old post-mortem photos and saw a photograph of her hired help...ALL DEAD!!! I think I peed myself at that point.
     
  9. papagene

    papagene Membership Council

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    In the 19th century, with the long exposures that were required, photographing children was very difficult. They didn't sit still that long. Post-mortem photographs of children was a very common practice.
    Today we think it spooky, back then it was a way to keep the memory alive of a young life lost so early.
    gene
     
  10. Mateo

    Mateo Subscriber

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    In a society where we weave through freeway traffic to close escrow on a nicer house, where we collect lovers like plates from the Franklin Mint, and where we buy the most overpriced german 35mm camera expecting to find meaning in the power of money, the last thing any of us wants is to be face with the fact that it's all temporary and we die.

    Spooky to me is when gramps is put in a home so that no one has to see him die.



    Oops, sorry bout that. Musta hit a nerve.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 13, 2004
  11. livemoa

    livemoa Member

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    When I was researching the bit in the paper I wrote that included post mortem shots I was suprised by the number of ones I came across of Mother and baby. A quick reminder of how dangerous the birthing process was/is.

    I was walking through a grave yard the other day (as you do,) and noticed the large number of graves (especialy Asian) that had photo's of the, resident? departed? on them. Found it interesting in relation to this thread.
     
  12. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

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    I agree!
     
  13. George Losse

    George Losse Member

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    Having been to too many funerals this past year, this topic has come up with family and friends a number of times.

    While yes, there were much slower film long ago. That was not the reason for the death shots.

    We currently live in a fast paced world, where being in NY and LA in the same day is very common. Go back fifty years and travel was not as fast. Go back a hundred years and it was considered great if you made it cross country in less then a week.

    Add to this the fact that modern embalming techniques, while they date back to the Civil War, they were not in wide spread use. There was not as much time between when a person died and when they were buried. Family members could not travel far enough fast enough to make it to the funerals, or they could not afford to travel. So there was a need for post-mortem photography.

    I agree with Bmac, I'd rather remember my loved ones as they were in life.
     
  14. Adrian Twiss

    Adrian Twiss Member

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    I've seen such photos in books (especially children) and wondered why people photographed the dead, usually in their funerary finery. This thread explains it.