Victorian Death Photos

Filed under: Your Pregnancy, Media

I remember years before my wife became pregnant, years before we were even married, I came across a reference to Victorian death photography in a book and followed up on it, and was startled too find the kind of images that are available on this web page. The Victorians, living in an age of much-higher infant mortality and in a world filled with more dangers and diseases put the new technology of photography right to use by photographing their dead infants and relatives. I can't help but wonder if this type of photography did not naturally evolve with the beginnings of the medium, when longer exposure times would have made it difficult to photograph someone's dead uncle while he was alive, and almost impossible to photograph a squirming infant.

I see that Greg found the same boingboing link and adds an interesting element to the discussion: modern stillborn photography and the complexity of emotion involved in all such photographs. He writes, "unfamiliarity with funerary photos--or bereavement photos, as they're now often called-- falls somewhere near the intersections of Americans' uncomfortable, arms-length relationship with death, the whipsawing grief of a baby dying, and the sheer cluelessness of new parents in general."

I, too, started writing this post as just a "creepy Halloween" thing, but in the end I am left numb by some empathetic stretch towards those dads and moms whose kids died a hundred and fifty years ago, and how horrible it must have been, and still is.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.