Don't fear the reaper
April 18, 2003 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Death photography Since Good Friday is pretty much all about death, how about a look at memento mori, otherwise known as postmortem photography? Some are heartrending, and many are quite artistic. Of course, there's an ugly side to this, too.
posted by LittleMissCranky (11 comments total)
Great post, especially the photographs on the Sleeping Beauty II site. Thanks.
posted by plep at 1:48 PM on April 18, 2003

The lychning photos are to most now an atrocity. It was much more accepted during the time of the photos - why? It is much easier to kill when the person is not like you, when they are different. It's like the killing of an animal, something that is removed.

Think about this when the next war emerges, when another countries' people are killed.
posted by the fire you left me at 1:52 PM on April 18, 2003

Well, dead people were a great subject for early photographers because they didn't move...
posted by dagnyscott at 1:53 PM on April 18, 2003

the fire you left me :- Well said. Dehumanising people who are unlike us is a road to Hell (and I say this as an agnostic). Good and evil are not culture-specific. So there is another message for Easter.

Without Sanctuary has been up a few years now, and is still one of the most important sites on the web, I believe.
posted by plep at 1:57 PM on April 18, 2003

Thank-you for the links - they were very important.
posted by Resonance at 2:49 PM on April 18, 2003

This was a wonderful post.

When my father died in 1977, my mother took approximately 30 photographs of the body and of herself with the body.

Even though I was only seven, I thought this sort of behavior was quite strange. It wasn't until I found a copy of Sleeping Beauty in the 90's that I discovered Mum's photos were part of a long tradition.
posted by pandaharma at 3:40 PM on April 18, 2003

My husband thought it was odd (okay, more like spooky) that at my dad's wake, we took photos of him. Coming from a long line of Eastern Europeans, we had always done this (though the younger generations are against it). Those photos did help me handle the overwhelming grief of my dad's death. He'd had a long terminal disease, and he'd been in much pain for the last ten years. To be honest, he looked better on the day of his wake than he had looked for a very long time. No pain at last.

The last few years, I had started to feel "funny" about having photos of dead relatives in a photo album. I'd even considered throwing them away. I'm glad I didn't. It's a family tradition, and it served a purpose, and they still make me feel better knowing that my dad (and now uncle and aunt) are no longer suffering from cancer and/or emphysema.

Thanks for the links.
posted by Orb at 4:35 PM on April 18, 2003

Some past Without Sanctuary threads/discussions:

And the "dead baby photo" thread:
posted by gluechunk at 7:16 PM on April 18, 2003

Thank you for posting these links. I've been interested in the practice of memento mori since picking up a copy of the book Wisconsin Death Trip many years ago.
posted by MrBaliHai at 7:18 PM on April 18, 2003

Superb post. This is what Metafilter is all about .... Thank you!
posted by anastasiav at 9:30 PM on April 18, 2003

The indigenous Australians of course believe a photo of their dead robs the subject of the "everafter".
posted by johnny7 at 10:44 AM on April 19, 2003

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