Victorian post mortem photography was a custom prevalent in Europe and, to some lesser extent, the United States. It was a culture where people used to pose for photographs with their deceased loved ones for memory purposes. This was a way through which families could mourn and accept the loss of their loved ones. Remembrance encouraged the practice of post mortem photography since most people, especially infants and young adults, were photographed together with their family members to keep their memories alive.
This paper will argue that many individuals from the Victorian era who participated in post mortem photography were heavily influenced by religious beliefs that in time developed into religious fixations. Post mortem photography is defined by modern psychiatry as an aspect of acute grief, which occurs in the early aftermath of a death. Acute grief can be intensely painful and is often characterized by behaviors and emotions that would be considered unusual in normal everyday life.
Some individuals from the Victorian era (1837-1902), who believed in post mortem photography, saw their life here as an entrance to eternal life in heaven. However, these individuals from the Victorian era further believed in freeing the soul so that it was not enslaved in the body after death and further believed that post mortem photography would so free the soul of the deceased. Background: Even though post mortem photography and the dead have a long history, most associate post-mortem photography to the Victorian period in Europe and, to some lesser extent, the United States.
Post-mortem photography was very popular in this 19th century period because the invention of the first photographic process, daguerreotype (a photographic process, which a picture on a silver surface sensitizes tit iodine was developed by exposure to mercury vapor, invented in 1839) made photography much more affordable. Daguerreotype photography was embraced since it was cheap and fast as compared to drawing; this faster and cheaper technique also offered the middle class with a way to remember the deceased.
Basically meaning, that those authorizing a post-mortem photographic sketch of a relative or friend also had the financial ability to meet the cost. Because of post mortem photography new nature, society embraced the daguerreotype quickly without having a second thought. “Post- mortem photography thrived in hydrotherapy ancient decades, among costumers who preferred to posses a photo of their deceased members as compared to lacking a memory. ” (Cornwall, 2004, p. 61). The photographs were used as keepsakes to remember family and friends.
Some photographers dedicated a substantial portion of their time to photograph the deceased. The strict relation between post mortem photography and the Victorian period inclines to overlook a number of variables. For instance, post mortem photography is still appreciated today in the same way as it was in the 19th century (Carmichael, 1966, p. 53). Nevertheless, there is a limited amount of photographers wrought the United States who still perform post mortem photography, and death masks.
However, many modern post mortem photos put less effort on giving the deceased a life-like appearance, and instead captures pictures of the deceased in coffins. Main Point 1: During the Victorian era, it was clear there were bizarre superstitions and rituals that families abided by to ensure their loved ones got the proper burial. In addition, to the bizarre superstitions and rituals, during the Victorian era some individuals participated in witchcraft and Joined cults. Victorian society was full of bizarre prepositions and rituals, like covering all mirrors with black fabric when someone died.
Most people participated in this bizarre superstitions and rituals because it was feared that the mirror could steal the decease’s soul and keep it. Also, during the Victorian era many individuals in Europe and, to some lesser extent, the United States believed in death omens, which is an indicator that the person who is visited by bad spirits is going to die. For instance, seeing themselves in dreams, or seeing an owl during the day. Main Point 2: An initial dwelling of the deceased is considered to be normal.
However, Jean Calenderer, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill of Victorian ghost stories and early psychology, describes acute grief as pathological (meaning evidence of being mentally disturbed). It then becomes a fixation. (Spirit Photography: Victorian Culture of Mourning, 17). These bizarre superstitions and rituals were really Just symptoms of some deeper-seated pathological issues. Prevailing Theories There are other psychological answers to the obsession with the deceased.
Post mortem photography in and of itself is not necessarily evidence of some sort of pathological issue. Even though the today’s society looks at post mortem photography as a morbid action, most of us still practice it in various ways. Only the actual real life posing for the pictures is what has been abandoned. People have cultural practices that make them still value the practice of post mortem photography for purposes of remembrance. Also, the practice of post mortem photography is still essential in some religions, such as for Catholics, who cherish respecting the deed for several reasons.
One is the continued need to memorial the deceased using a worshiped treasure, such as a photograph. A second reason is to maintain the continuity of church growth and ideas, as the process of the passing down of information regarding certain prominent church personalities and how they dedicated their life to serve could trigger the use of post mortem photography. This is because in current society, we identify ourselves with these people. Post mortem photography also is currently used in criminal investigations.
The use of post mortem photography is essential in ensuring that even the dead can be accorded Justice. Post mortem photos are often used as aids to deduce the cause of death of an individual, specially in a case where the death occurred under mysterious circumstances. This shows that the current use of post mortem photography in our Justice system is justifiable. Documentation does have limits. For example, in a massacre, for purposes of evidence, it is essential for the Journalist and people concerned to take pictures of the dead, but to be able to pose them for the public is not accepted.
Nature always exposes human beings to challenges that need to be recorded for future generations. The use of post mortem photography as a record for future reference is commendable. For instance, in the field of anthropology, photographic communication of events is essential for they act as proof of what actually happened. Though, some people depict this as uncultured to some extent. There are certain photos that anthropologists would use, but societal moral values and beliefs restrict the use of such photos.
Yet, in order to validate the scientific findings, it is still justifiable to use post mortem anthropology to achieve this purpose regardless of societal values. Rebuttal People today are scared of death, it is not perceived as in the early 19th century when people used to take death as a normal thing. Death was more of a way of life urine the Victorian era for several reasons. Mothers died in childbirth, children died from preventable diseases, adults lived much shorter life ps. Modern medicine and technology have eliminated all of these as concerns.
Celebrations such as Halloween show how people today are scared of death, as, for example, the masks used are normally from images related to death. They are intended to scare people, but at the same time they actually depict what was meant for post mortem photography. People avoid death, it is still something that happens to all of us eventually, but modern society has made it into something to be afraid of, something o scare little children and something to be kept at a distance. Most people no longer associate death as being a normal event as in the 19th century.
Thus, what occurred in the 19th century was more related to trying to understand death as a normal part of life, not a pathological condition requiring medical treatment. Conclusion Even though post mortem photography was mostly attributed to the Victorian era, today people still practice this through recordings as keepsakes, the taking of post mortem pictures for use in our Justice system, the use of methods such as tattoos rented on our skin, graffiti painted on our cars and walls, images and pictures of the dead in their graves, as well as statues.
We are not running away from death and post mortem photography, but we are only distancing ourselves from death while adopting other ways to remember the departed ones.