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  1. #21
    Rudeofus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leighgion View Post
    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.
    I have actually heard the reason why so many death portraits were made well over 100 years ago: since it took over 15 minutes to expose film material back then, death portraits of people were almost the only way to get sharp pictures of people.

    @ntenny: exactly my thoughts. Props to those who can do it, but as a parent of 2 toddlers this kind of work would emotionally destroy me.

  2. #22
    AmsterdamMartin's Avatar
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    The phenomenon is as old as photography, and before: as long as there have been humans.
    Very good that taboos have been overcome again, to support the families.
    By being open and natural towards death, society prevents perversions like paparazzi photographing traffic accidents etc.

  3. #23

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    I almost ended up being one of those babies

  4. #24

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    The largest commission I ever received was for the portrait of the Patriarch of a very prominent Italian family just outside Rome and I wasn't informed that he was dead until I arrived at the family Villa and was told that he could be found in the family chapel in his casket. It seems that in certain parts of the world, a death portrait has replaced or, sometimes, been an important addition to a death mask. While it was very difficult for me, I treated it as a portrait session but this was a very old man. I don't think I could have been as emotionally detached if the subject was a child. I still don't know quite how to think of this type of portraiture but I suppose for some people it gives them comfort. I don't think I could do this for a living though.
    Denise Libby

  5. #25
    Andrew K's Avatar
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    When I ran a black and white lab in the late 90's I would occasionally be asked to print a roll or 2 of film (usually black and white) of stillborn babies for a local hospital. It was always an emotional experience - the photographs were often beautifully posed, with the parents holding the child in their hand-the child dressed in a tiny (dolls?) outfit...

    Sometimes the photos were a record photograph of a very premature child that was barely recognisable - these photographs were not for a medical record, but were taken so that at some point in the future the parents, during their greiving process, would have some sort of photograph of their child (I can still remember, over 15 years later, a photograph of a childs hand, tiny, and not perfectly formed, coming out from under a piece of cloth - the onlt recognisable part of the child that would not be too terrifying for a person to see)

    I also have friend in Canberra who volunteers for an organization that photographs sick/prem/deceased children in hospitals. It is not a job I could do now due to the many things I have seen in my life, but it is something I appreciate and admire....

    These are photographs no parent wants to see. They may not want to see them ever, but if they do they do help with closure...

    Historically my understanding of death portraits was that they were taken to send "back home" to relatives who may not have seen the person for 10, 20 or more years.....plus there was the Victorian obscession with mourning - if no other photograph were available then this would do as a momento...

    Also - I've done a little wet plate/tintype photography - exposures were not in the 10-15 minute range - using an old camera of the period in daylight you are talking at most a 3-8 second exposure...by the late 1880's exposures in a studio were down to 1-3 seconds with wet plates based on contemporary accounts...
    A camera is only a black box with a hole in it....

    my blog...some film, some digital http://andrewk1965.wordpress.com/

  6. #26
    winger's Avatar
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    As a new mom (5 months now), there's no way I could take pictures for this group, but I applaud those who can. It would be a priceless memento for the family.

  7. #27

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    If it works for some grieving people as a method of closure than I am not against the practice. It's not really that much different than the "sleeping" children photographs taken after the death of a child and the mourning jewelry worn in my grandparent's day. That being said I wouldn't want pictures of me taken after death, nor would I take one of anyone I'd lost. That's just not how I want to remember them all quiet and still. It would depress me utterly.

  8. #28
    foc
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    I think different societies will view this differently as was said in an earlier post. I'am all for what ever helps grieving parents and family come to terms with their loss.

    As a parent who lost our daughter Lauren to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDDS) I can see it from both sides. Thankfully as a professional photographer I have a lot of photos taken of our daughter before she died, infact the county nurse comented on the fact at the time. However at the time of her funeral I couldn't take any photos, I had to ask an other collegue to do it for me. Now when we look back through her album my wife and I are delighted that we did have those photos taken. Our son, who was too young at the time to remember, loves to look through the album also and likes to see the last few photos of his sister. For him it's then end of her short life story.

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by magkelly View Post
    If it works for some grieving people as a method of closure than I am not against the practice. It's not really that much different than the "sleeping" children photographs taken after the death of a child and the mourning jewelry worn in my grandparent's day. That being said I wouldn't want pictures of me taken after death, nor would I take one of anyone I'd lost. That's just not how I want to remember them all quiet and still. It would depress me utterly.
    For the same reason, I have no interest in seeing a deceased person in an open coffin. When my father died, my mother asked me to go with her to view his body, and I did so for her sake. When she died (18 months later), I did not want to remember her as a body in a coffin, so I did not view her. It's not that I'm squeamish, it's just that I would rather remember them as they were when alive, not dead.

    However, as a professional I can understand other people's feelings and wishes. When a friend asked me to go into the funeral home before the funeral and take photos of her deceased husband in the open casket, I did so, and did my best to make photos for her that she would treasure... just as I would if he had been alive. She was very appreciative of my work.

    I have never photographed a deceased child, but would do so if asked.
    Eddy McDonald
    www.fotoartes.com
    Eschew defenestration!

  10. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by eddym View Post
    For the same reason, I have no interest in seeing a deceased person in an open coffin. When my father died, my mother asked me to go with her to view his body, and I did so for her sake. When she died (18 months later), I did not want to remember her as a body in a coffin, so I did not view her. It's not that I'm squeamish, it's just that I would rather remember them as they were when alive, not dead.
    I had an identical experience...after my Mother and I viewed my late Father's body, my Mother said some time afterwards "Don't let anyone see me like that when I go".
    She passed away a couple of years ago and I observed her wishes, and now remember her only with pleasure in many happy situations when she was alive. But, believe it or not, I had some nasty remarks from some family members who wanted to "view the body".....:rolleyes:

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