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June 7, 2016

Death Photography From the 19th Century

This story, and photos, may be upsetting for some of my readers. But it shows very well how times and customs change over the centuries and over the culture of the geographic location.

In the 19th Century it was a common practice in many countries, including England and the United States, to photograph a deceased loved one. Often the family member who had died was placed with the rest of the family for one final family photograph. Children especially were often memorialized in this fashion.

Taken from life: The unsettling art of death photography is a fascinating look at this custom from BBC News journalist .

Photo credit: Screenshot from BBC News article at


Mallory Cook said...

so sad and I would think the children would have been horrified and the reason this custom died out.. I mean can you imagine having to stand there and pose for this picture? They must have been so terribly sad

Brayer said...

Death, especially of children, was so common that I doubt the other children in the family were horrified as we would be. Also, consider that this was a normal part 18th and 19th century culture. It was a way to grieve and to remember.

Dana Leeds said...

I read quite a bit about this fascinating topic a few years ago. Often, these families didn't have photos of their beloved child (or other loved one), so this was their last chance to have a photo of them.

Anonymous said...

Photography was so expensive at that time that most people could only afford to have a picture taken just before or after the death of a loved one. It was often the only picture a family had to remember a deceased loved one.