Death Photography of the Victorian Era

This is one of the most eerie yet awesome phenomenon in the annals of history. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, photography had become an art form, albeit very expensive. Therefore, people only had photographs taken for the most memorable occasions. One of these special occasions was the death of a loved one. You see, it seems grim to us now but many times the only time a family could afford to spend money on a photograph would be when a loved one had died, as this would literally be the last time they would ever be with them.

Most of the dead featured are children as children dropped like flies from things many of us do not consider threatening anymore. Influenza killed young and old alike as well as whooping cough. My own grandmother’s sister died at nine months of age due to the whooping cough. The dead were embalmed and then posed with their loved ones to create one last moment with the deceased. Today it seems creepy as hell but as stated, it was the only time many families could afford to have a photograph taken to forever remember their child or relative.

Photographs of this period took an extraordinarily long time to take and as such the living ones often appear blurred while the dead, in their absolute stillness, appear almost “HD”, crisp and clear. Truly a bizarre and fascinating moment in history. I would like to see this tradition brought back. Although it hasn’t completely died out, I remember one of my ex dealers had photographs in his living room of his mother and father in their coffins and the South Americans and Asians are far more comfortable with their dead than their American counterparts. Tell me what you think. Is this something you would like to see become mainstream again?

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20 thoughts on “Death Photography of the Victorian Era

  1. Well, my grandfather’s sister died when she was 14, drowned in a well after a chicken scared her and she fell, and my father’s older sister died when she was 2 years old from disease (dont remember wich), but we didnt had that tradition to photograph dead people in here though. πŸ™ Ohh well…

    Black and white pics are awesome to make people look more alive than they really are… the post mortem greenish/blueish skin tone can be easily masked with it. πŸ˜€

  2. I think these photographs are beautiful when taken soon after death. They always look like they ( the dead ) are looking towards their next journey…like the grim reaper is stood behind the camera man saying “c’mon let’s go, we’re running late” and the dead person is like ” yeah ok I’m coming……BUT first let me take a selfie”

  3. It’s not that much different than hugging your loved one in their coffin at their wake, while someone films it or takes a picture of it, and then you wanting a copy of the video or pictures afterwards.
    I’ve seen that a couple of times, so this shouldn’t really seem so weird to any family that already takes pictures of their loved ones in their coffins.
    However their loved ones want to remember them should be up to their loved ones, especially if they’re up for cremation.

    So if it went mainstream, I wouldn’t be wierded out by it at all.
    There’s just too many prudes out there these days that would shit on it, but I’d say go for it!

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