Mourning Photography

by K-Berens
old photo of parents with their deceased daughter

In post-mortem photographs the subject was usually depicted so as to seem in a peaceful sleep, or else arranged to appear more lifelike like the Victorian-era daughter shown in the photo above.

Having a professional photographer take pictures of the deceased was a regular practice that came with the growing popularity and the affordability of the photograph. This was especially common with small children and infants – having a picture ensured that the parents would never forget the face of their beloved child.

Anthony R. Vizzari has gathered over 1000 photographs of mourners, mourning and mourned from the 1840s to present. The Museum of Mourning Photography & Memorial Practice is currently situated in Oak Park, Illinois, but they have launched a digital archive which gives people a chance to see some of the collection in high quality from their computer screen.

The collection is beautiful – the children whose pictures are featured in the gallery look peaceful, and simply look like they are sleeping. The museum has a policy that no grotesque or shocking death photos will be displayed. Most of the pictures on the website feature black and white images of children who have passed away in the 1800s.

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