There is always a feeling of uneasiness, whenever we look at these photos. Looking at them sends cold chills down our spine. We shy away from this type of photos thinking that these are morbid reminder of the dead and they might wake up to haunt us.
I do not really like collecting these photos but I am keeping them to remind us of the past. It reminds us that we should honor and remember our dearly departed thought these photograph mementos.
|Recuerdos de Patay of a wealthy mid aged woman. Ca. 1920's|
Recuerdo de Patay (also known as memorial portraiture, memento mori, post-mortem photography or mourning portraits) is the practice of photographing the recently deceased.
The invention of the photography made portraiture a commonplace, as many of those who were unable to afford the commission of a painted portrait could afford to sit for a photography session. This cheaper and quicker method also provided the middle class with a means for memorializing dead loved ones.
With the coming of the Americans at the turn of the century they introduced to us the post-mortem photography
This type photography was very common in the nineteenth century when "death occurred in the home and was quite an ordinary part of life." Due to photography being a new medium, it is plausible that "many post-mortem portraits, especially those of infants and young children, were probably the only photographs ever made of the 'sitters.'" Post-mortem photography flourished in photography's early decades, among clients who preferred to capture an image of a deceased loved one rather than have no photograph at all."
|Recuerdos de Patay of a young boy. Ca. 1920's|
These photographs served as keepsakes to remember the deceased. This was especially common with infants and young children; early childhood mortality rates were extremely high, and a post-mortem photograph might have been the only image of the child the family ever had. The later invention of the carte de visite, which allowed multiple prints to be made from a single negative, meant that copies of the image could be mailed to relatives.
The practice eventually peaked in popularity around the end of the 19th century and died out as "snapshot" photography became more commonplace.
|Filomena Almarines . The Dead and the Living, Aug 13-38 - July 6-13. Taken by Ledesma Studio. Binan, Laguna. For more information view And All The Angels and Saints site|
The earliest post-mortem photographs are usually close-ups of the face or shots of the full body and rarely include the coffin. The subject is usually depicted so as to seem in a deep sleep, or else arranged to appear more lifelike. Children were often shown in repose on a couch or in a crib, sometimes posed with a favorite toy or other plaything. It was not uncommon to photograph very young children with a family member, most frequently the mother. Adults were more commonly posed in chairs or even braced on specially-designed frames. Flowers were also a common prop in post-mortem photography of all types.
Post-mortem photography is still practiced in some areas of the world, such as Eastern Europe. Photographs, especially depicting persons who were considered to be very holy lying in their coffins are still circulated among faithful Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians.
As the common practice of post-mortem photography in North America and Western Europe has largely ceased, the portrayal of such images has become increasingly seen as vulgar, sensationalistic and taboo. This is in marked contrast to the beauty and sensitivity perceived in the older tradition, indicating a cultural shift that may reflect wider social discomfort with death. Notably, however, the photographs of a number of contemporary artists imply a dialogue that helps illuminate the intent of the early works.