POSTMORTEM PHOTOGRAPH OF YOUNG GIRL IN PARIS, FRANCE

This cabinet card is a postmortem photograph of a young girl. The image is upsetting and sad, but served as a remembrance of a family member for their grief stricken family. Note the flowers and cross lying on the child’s bed and the religious statues and candles on the side table.   The photographer of this cabinet card was R. Dechavannes, whose studio was located in Paris, France. To view other photographs by Dechavannes, click on the category “Photographer: Dechavannes”. Hopefully, visitors to the cabinet card gallery will not find this image offensive. A website  called “Ostrobogulous Cackleberries”, has an interesting article about the practice of postmortem photography. The writer states that during the Victorian era, photographing the recently deceased was “extremely prevalent”. The author points out that the practice existed before the invention of the camera. Instead of photographing the dead, artists painted their portraits immediately following their death. In many cases, the postmortem photo was the only image a family possessed of the departed family member. Many of the Victorian memorial photographs were of infants and children. The mortality rate of children during that time was very high. The writer offers a description of how the dead were posed and there seems to be a great deal of approaches to the practice. Postmortem images could be full body or facial close-ups. Coffins were not frequently included in the picture. The dead were often posed as if they were sleeping and sometimes were presented as life-like. In some photos they were braced or tied into chairs or propped up against other family members to look as alive as possible. According to the article, the popularity of postmortem photography faded in the early twentieth century. Funerals moved from the home parlor tot the funeral parlor. Society stopped “embracing mortality” and we became the death denying culture of today.

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