When people take photographs these days, it is almost always about preserving history through images, to have something as a remembrance of happy moments in life with friends and families, sometimes with no one else.
Photographs are also commonly used to immortalize milestones in life such as birthdays, the first day a child can walk, the first day in school, winning competitions, graduation, first day on a job, engagement, marriage, and all sorts of celebratory occasion.
Very few (if any) take photographs to remember how others look like dying or dead. That said, it was a common practice in Victorian England.
In the years following the Civil War, photography became increasingly popular and affordable. Many families who had not been able to afford to have a photograph captured many years before could now pay a reasonable amount of money to get the job done by a professional.
The Victorian England people found a way to feed their fascination with death through cameras, and the results were some off-putting images.
10 Popular Trend
With affordability comes popularity. Photography soon became a trend, set in Victorian England; the interest is in a more specific subject: death.
For many families, death photography was the only chance to get an image of a loved one captured, mostly if the deceased was a child.
This trend later became known as memento mori, which means “remember, you must die.” As the scientific society made advances in the medical field, postpartum and child mortality decreased, and so did the interest in post-mortem photography.
9 Last Portrait
The death of a loved one was often the main reason to have a family portrait captured. Once again, it would be the last chance to have a permanent visual record of the dead.
For many years, Victorian England was plagued by (then) life-threatening diseases such as measles, rubella, diphtheria, and scarlet fever, among others – all of which could be fatal due to the lack of effective treatments. The first family portrait was also often the last of the deceased.