It doesn't have to be an infant. My little sister/closest friend/only living relative died at age 42 and I have almost zero photographs of her, I think it's what started making me photograph..Evan Clarke
Originally Posted by SuzanneR
Postmortem portraits, not just for infants, were once very common and popular.
While I'm not studied on the topic, I suspect one reason at the time was that photographs were much less common so for most folk they'd have been photographed only a couple times, if at all in their lives. A death portrait would be the last opportunity to have any visual memory of the deceased.
In modern times, most of us are being photographed constantly, but for an infant the same reasoning applies as in the old days. They've not had time to be photographed in life.
As the "professional" photographer in my family, I've fallen heir to many old pictures, envelopes of odd sized negatives etc. that no one can figure out what to do with. Among those treasures are several funeral portraits including one of an aunt who died in childbirth in about 1946 or 47. She is pictured as she was buried, holding her stillborn child in a single casket.
My question is not why are people now making these kind of photos, but why did we apparently stop - at least at the hiring a studio photographer level - from the 1950s till now?
Wow, that must be some of the most emotionally difficult work going. I admire those who can do it and keep themselves focussed on how it helps, but---especially as the parent of a small child myself---I don't think I could keep it together for very long while watching postmortem portraits of infants come up in the developing tray.
San Diego, CA, USA
The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
-The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_
My wife is a NNICU doctor, and she is fighting a battle locally to reinstate this right for parents through her parent support group S.O.S babies.
According March of Dimes, infants and parents have many rights, including the right to photograph their child. Unfortunately, that right has been abused in the republic of Trinidad and Tobago, where parents of terminally ill/ dying babies take pictures, and go to the press, saying that the doctors are not treating their babies.."insert picture of baby with a million tubes and bandages".. and have sued the institutions and recieved millions of dollars in "compensation" *sic*. The ministry of health and hospital administration has stopped photographs altogether in the hospital, but the administration is slowly comming around to allowing photos again.
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I've attended funerals in Romania and at least in the rural areas there's no such thing as undertakers - the family organises everything. But one thing that is always hired is a photographer to take a group photo of the mourners around the open coffin (which has sat open in the family home for some days). Every family photo album I've seen has these shots, old and new. Luckily, I've never been to a child's funeral, but I'm sure it's just the same.
Yes, I've seen at least one of this kind of photographs from Slovakia, shot by J. Koudelka.
Originally Posted by perkeleellinen
EDIT: This one
Last edited by Anon Ymous; 07-14-2010 at 02:11 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: Addition - correction
Having just participated in the birth of our first child this past Saturday I can tell you I would have made one a final portrait. There was a fleeting thought during the labor where I actually thought about what I would do if... I decided I would, tears streaming down my face and glad I had auto-focus. Memorials, have a place in the progression through a death, and having a well executed visual reminder would be important.
Here is August Sander's wife, one live birth and one stillborn. How hard would that be to take.
"There are a great many things I am in doubt about at the moment, and I should consider myself favoured if you would kindly enlighten me. Signed, Doubtful, off to Canada." (BJP 1914).
I think it's about closure. Having seen how the death of my youngest sister affected my parents, particularly my mother who was also her carer, I think his is an admiral project.
Death brushed under the carpet is far worse. One of my Aunts lost her son, her only child, I lived my life being told never to mention my cousin who was just a year older than me and it was awkward. The other older cousins around his age always felt uneasy with my aunt, and we weren't invited to her Golden wedding 40+ years later, but all our younger siblings were.
There was an upside to this, three years ago with a younger cousin we where going through family photo's from the late 50's, my Aunt pointed out her son, my cousin then told her when & where the image had been made which was a year after her sons death. The awkwardness lifted slightly.
The next day out of the blue my Aunt apologised for the way she'd treated us.
I think mothers in particular would appreciate this kind of closure.