Sunday, October 20, 2013

Victorian Post Mortem Photography

I am continuing to challenge myself to write posts with titles from The Everyday Goth's post 25 Goth Posts I'd Read in a Heartbeat. Number 2 is actually "Victorian Post Modem Photography: An EBay Buyer's Guide." I think I will just focus on the photography part, although I'm sure you can purchase some on EBay (they sell everything).

I find Victorian era funerary and mourning customs to be fascinating. From hair wreaths and mourning jewelry, to mourning wear and covering the mirrors and stopping the clocks, there is a certain romantic ritual to it all. The creepiest custom though, is the custom of photographing the dead.

When photography first became available in the late 1830s and early 1840s, it was very expensive and only the wealthy could afford it. For some families the only time they would splurge the money on a photograph, was in the unfortunate event of a family member's death. A child's death especially would be a reason, as infant mortality rates were high and for some it would be the only photo of their child.

As the technology became more affordable, post mortem photographs became more popular amongst all classes. Popular shots were the child with the mother, or made to look as if they were sleeping. Often they would paint open eyes on the photo and rosy cheeks, to make the child look more alive.

Some photos even have the deceased standing, held up by an elaborate stand, not much different then a doll's stand, to make the subject look as lively as possible.

While it may seem strange to us now, I'm sure for people then, having at least one memento of a loved one was a comfort. And it wasn't just for people either, below is a photo of a beloved family pet.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


  1. I think you are doing an excellent job on this challenge! The photografers did an amazing job on the post mortem photos.

  2. I don't find these creepy at all,I think it's a beautiful custom.

  3. I've always been interested in Post Mortem Photography. The custom actually makes since to me, and I actually have a lot of photos that my grandmother took at my grandfather's open casket funeral, which I don't find creepy in the slightest.

  4. I am fascinated by Victorian mourning customs, I love the idea of not being ashamed of grief, of memento moris reminding us life is short and we need to live it. I love post mortem photographs, it is touching to see how much they loved these people that if they had no photo of them they would try and make them so lifelike after death to have a record of that person!

    I love all the trappings of mourning, I would like to have something like a ring or a lachrymatory vial!

  5. These days, death is treated too flippantly. Funerals are quick as they are usually at funeral homes not churches. Bring back the days when a loved one's life was truly mourned and displays of grief were an acceptable part of life.