“Postmortem photography, photographing a deceased person, was a common practice in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These photographs were often the only ones taken of their subjects, and much pride and artistry went into them… These photographs were a common aspect of American culture, a part of the mourning and memorialization process. Surviving families were proud of these images and hung them in their homes, sent copies to friends and relatives, wore them as lockets or carried them as pocket mirrors… Discussions of death in books are prolific, and we are accustomed to images of death as part of our daily news, but actual death as part of private lives has become a shameful and unspoken subject.
“This volume presents a chronological arrangement of postmortem photography 1840-1930; no other collection of this material has been made available despite recent interest in the American way of death. What emerges is a vivid visual history of the changes in American customs. We can see the change in death concepts and funerary practices, from the image of death as a stark Puritan journey for a sinner to the late Victorian beautification of death and its interpretation as a restful sleep for a redeemed soul… More than anything else, I hope these photographs will help the modern American overcome the death taboo and better understand the fear of death, to solve some important death-related cultural issues, and to choose to use photography as part of the grieving process.”—Dr. Stanley Burns
Publisher: Twin Palms
Hardback: 140 pages