I know this is going to come off horrendously morbid and terribly bizarre, but isn’t there something just so beautiful in the moments captured after death? Granted, it’s morose and strange, but displays of such raw emotion; an unwillingness to let go; are so surreally captivating. And in the Victorian times, they had quite the odd fascination with capturing the dead forever in their finest clothing and stiffest poses. Memento mori, translated in Latin to ‘remember your mortality’, can describe a variety of macabre art movements, but to me it will always symbolize the post-mortem photography so prevalent in the mid-1800s.
The invention of the daguerreotype allowed even common people to create keepsakes of their loved ones – prior to its invention, capturing family members’ likenesses involved the costly and time-consuming process of commissioning a painted portrait! This meant that, unfortunately, when common folks died, their survivors were often left with only fading memories to hold on to.
So it was in this very specific time period, where non-wealthy folk had not previously had the opportunity to photograph the family due to, well, photography just being invented and all, that their only option to retain a lasting, tangible keepsake of their loved one, was to take their photograph after death.
Corpses were often propped in lifelike poses, wide eyes were painted on closed eyelids, and even family members sometimes posed with the deceased, particularly if they were children.
Long considered sensational and vulgar, memento mori is just now receiving the fascination and historical recognition it deserves.
If you haven’t already become a fan of the bizarre, take a look below and tell me you don’t find a strange beauty in it all.
*most images courtesy of listverse.com
Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.
- George Eliot