Talk:Post-mortem photography

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Merge?[edit]

I dont' see much of a difference between this article and Mourning portrait. Would anyone support a merge of the two? Rklawton 18:20, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

  • Be my guest. I added a personal family image with a shrine to the departed included in the family portrait. But we really need to get a true post-mortem photo of a deceased individual as representative of the topic. Unfortunately, I don't have one in my collection.--Mactographer 09:50, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

Rewrite[edit]

Hey, I did a rewrite of the article and added a different photograph. Please let me know if you have any comments/concerns. I was thinking about keeping the original photo on the page as an example of an alternate type of photo, but the article is still fairly short and I felt it would just crowd the page. Thoughts? —dustmite 03:11, 23 October 2007 (UTC)

External Link "Ancestry.com"[edit]

hey there, i dont know how that link got into the references, i moved it to external links, but im not sure if it belongs to here since its a collection of birth/death/family records.--Röhnrad 05:03, 10 October 2012 (GMT+1)

Eliminate the Urban Legend[edit]

The reference to a stand or framework that held a dead body for photographing-- the part linking to footnote number 5 (which is a dead link) should be removed to avoid feeding into an Urban Legend that is currently permitting some eBay vendors to say any old photograph where evidence of the stand photographers used to hold the subject still long enough for the picture to be taken indicates the person was dead at the time. And they can point to this reference as "proof". The fact is that a framework was used on living people. The image of the deceased person propped in a chair is about as life-like as photographers could get. There is a good depiction of the use of this type of stand on a living person at the beginning of the film Creation. If such a stand was ever used on the dead, it would have been a rare occurrence with poor (non-lifelike) result.

I hesitate to delete anything from someone else's article and what I've said here is "original research", but if I run into anything I can cite, I may fix this myself. Otherwise, I hope someone else will at least remove the reference leading to the no-longer-existing footnote 5. Thanks for listening. Kathrynklos (talk) 15:40, 31 December 2013 (UTC)

It has been years since others posted here so I have gone ahead and removed the offending sentence from this article. Victorian people did NOT pose people using "a frame" or do anything more drastic than place someone in a chair, appearing thoroughly dead. There is much myth about this "out there" and substantiating this myth in this place only serves to put money into the pockets of eBay sellers who know they can get more for an image if they say the person in the picture is dead. The end-part of this article is really lovely and totally accurate about 19th century people. But I took this out (and the link is dead anyway): Adults were more commonly posed in chairs or even braced on specially-designed frames.[1]

Adults weren't commonly posed in chairs-- they were more commonly on a bed. Thanks for listening. Kathrynklos (talk) 22:19, 31 December 2013 (UTC)

I tweaked a bit so that anyone researching this subject might understand that the stands which are sometimes apparent in old photographs do not indicate the person was dead. EBay sellers have done a great job creating this myth, and have even created a facebook page (or group) wherein they say the "Brady stand" is proof positive that the person was a corpse... it is even claimed that Victorians drilled holes in the heads of their loved ones, strung them up marionette-style, took pictures and then photoshopped-out the ropes. Shades of P.T. Barnum and cliches re "a fool and his money"... Kathrynklos (talk) 17:19, 2 January 2014 (UTC)


I changed the caption under the picture of Victorian parents with their daughter, which originally stated that the daughter was dead. Those who collect these images believe it more likely the daughter is in the process of dying but is not dead yet. Kathrynklos (talk) — Preceding undated comment added 02:02, 26 April 2014 (UTC)
Decided to change the left-side picture altogether, as there is much controversy re the other (whether the woman is indeed dead or merely on the way out). The picture of the baby which I posted is very typical of post-mortem images. Kathrynklos (talk) 16:55, 26 April 2014 (UTC)


I removed the external link to something titled "The Strangest Tradition" because it contained bogus information. Kathrynklos (talk) — Preceding undated comment added 01:08, 26 April 2014 (UTC)

I have no expertise regarding post-mortem photograhy, but I couldn't help but notice that in many photographs these 3 thing appear together: 1) a metal base appears at the feet of the subject 2) the subject's eyes are closed or gaze is downcast such that the eyes are not visible and 3) there is "string" at the bottom of the photo leading from the foot area of the subject outward toward the position where the camera would be. This seems to provide strong indication that the subject *is* deceased and the metal base part of device to hold the corpse up. I can provide examples of such photos if requested. Can someone please provide verifable documentation one way or the other, i.e. that frames were used for the deceased subjects or that frames were used for living subjects? Also can someone please explain the "strings"? What is their purpose? I am a bit surprised to see no mention of them in this article. Thanks.71.56.237.33 (talk) 22:24, 6 September 2015 (UTC)

In response to above: The metal stand is called a "Brady Stand", and is described above. It was designed to hold a living person still, long enough for a picture to be taken. It could only be used on living people because it could not hold the weight of a dead body. Rent the film "Creation" and you will see one being used at the beginning of the film. I have a number of pictures of my ancestors with this device in place, and they lived decades after the picture was taken. The Victorian people did not prop the dead to appear alive, beyond making them appear "comfortable" on a bed or chair or in a coffin. They were not ghouls, and it was considered a crime to desecrate the dead. I don't know about the "strings"-- sounds like something the current batch of eBay scalpers point out to "prove" something that permits them to ask ten times more for some lame picture. You don't see mention of props and strings in this article because it wasn't done. The "propping of the dead to make them seem alive" is an urban legend. Squirrelwhisperer (talk) 06:07, 28 November 2015 (UTC)

Memento mori[edit]

I am removing the alternate name "memento mori" because in an (admittedly quick) survey of the 19th-century literature, I have seen no cases where post-mortem photographs were called a memento mori. In the 19th century, the typical symbols of memento mori were skull and crossbones etc. --Macrakis (talk) 15:12, 6 May 2014 (UTC)

Possible Sources to Use to gather more info[edit]

¬ Ana María Henao Albarracín. "Uses and Social Meanings of Post-Mortem Photography in Colombia." Universitas Humanística 75.75 (2013): 329-54. Web. This source will be able to give some insight on social uses of post-mortem photography (PMP) specifically in Columbia. This source will help expand how and why certain areas of the world performed the practice. ¬ Aytemiz, Pelin. "Death Photography in Turkey in the Late 1800s and Early 1900s: Defining an Area of Study." Early Popular Visual Culture 11.4 (2013): 322. Web. This source allows to dive in the history of Turkey and its use of PMP. ¬ Debrix, François. "Post-Mortem Photography: Gilles Peress and the Taxonomy of Death." Postmodern Culture 9.2 (1999): 3. Web. This source seems to explain other uses besides social motivation for post-mortem photography. ¬ Ennis, Helen. "Death and Digital Photography." Cultural Studies Review 17.1 (2011): 125-45. Web. Explores the representation of the dying and the dead in Australia. I think this article would be great to gauge the attitude towards the dying and dead and how it may of influenced how they were photographed. ¬ Fernandez, Ingrid. "The Lives of Corpses: Narratives of the Image in American Memorial Photography." Mortality 16.4 (2011): 343. Web. Studies how the burying the dead may be to be out of sight and how post-mortem photography represents the nonliving. ¬ Kürti, László. "'for the Last Time': The Hiltman-Kinsey Post-Mortem Photographs, 1918-1920." Visual Studies 27.1 (2012): 91. Web. This source investigates how the photographers and funeral director were perceived. This will shed light to how accepted the practice was during the time of its most common execution. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Britogissel (talkcontribs) 04:14, 23 February 2016 (UTC)

I've marked this page for bad citations and possible violation of neutrality[edit]

"Victorian Post-mortem Photographs" has been claimed in various places to be a bogus internet meme used by companies such as BuzzFeed to generate clicks. See for example: the previous discussion on this talk page; http://dealer042.wix.com/post-mortem-photos ; http://cabinetofcuriosities.ca/pictures-of-the-dead-the-truth-about-post-mortem-photography ; the comments on http://www.mdolla.com/2012/05/stiff-pose-victorian-postmortem.html; The sixth image on the latter site, supposedly of a dead Victorian, is apparently a well-credentialed photograph of a perfectly-alive Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll. (See http://dealer042.wix.com/post-mortem-photos.) The whole area seems to be a mess with no reliable secondary sources. For example, any claim that a photograph is of a corpse posed to look like it is sleeping can be contradicted by the argument that it is, in fact, just a picture of a living person who is sleeping. While there are many strange-looking old photographs, even in 2000, prior to the dominance of digital imagery, many odd photographs were saved because of the time and cost of taking and developing photographic-film-based images.

It is also argued on sites like http://dealer042.wix.com/post-mortem-photos that unscrupulous dealers will label old photographs as post-mortem because they can get more money. The second image in this article, for example, of a supposedly dead child, is labeled that without proof in an eBay post by a dealer charging £42. This article contains multiple references to the Stanley Burns archive and the Thanatos archive, both of which are money-making operations, so I'm worried that this page is being manipulated by dealers to establish a credential for their bogus operations.

Of the four images in this article that purport to be photos of dead people, only one, the Syrian bishop, has a reliable citation. Generally I'm concerned this page damages the reliability of wikipedia.

Jeffrw (talk) 07:39, 21 April 2016 (UTC)

Agreed, and since no-one has come up with any evidence, I'm going to remove the three photographs of the middle-aged man and the 1890 and 1875 children, and the reference to Burns, also the statement cited to indigo plum - the cite leads to the website of a commercial photographer with no material concerning this subject. Useful site regarding this subject: http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous/2016/06/19/myth-victorian-post-mortem-photography/ Robocon1 (talk) 09:56, 30 April 2017 (UTC)