Saturday, May 19, 2012 Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stiff Pose Victorian Postmortem photography (140 Pics)

Postmortem photography or memento mori, the photographing of a deceased person, was a common practice in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The photographs were considered a keepsake to remember the dead.

Child mortality was high during the Victorian era. For many children even a common sickness could be fatal. When a child or other family member died, families would often have a photograph taken before burial. Many times it was the first and last photograph they would ever possess of their loved one.

Many postmortem photographs were close-ups of the face or shots of the full body. The deceased were usually depicted to appear as if they were in a deep sleep, or else arranged to appear more life-like. Children were often shown on a couch or in a crib, often posed with a favorite toy. 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 propped up on something.

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103 comments:

  1. some of them I dont think are post mortem.

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    1. To pose the loved ones sitting in a chair with a book in their lap is beyond words for me. And to see the siblings standing next to their dead brother/sister posed as if they are not dead is horrifying. You can see it in the children's eyes how it is effecting them being made to go through this. Keeping the deceased eyes open and posed as if they are alive in their last picture is so wrong at many levels. What a horrible era to of lived. To them they didn't know of anything else and this was the norm. Ugh!

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    2. I think its beautiful and a great commemoration of life.

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    3. When you have lost a child your heart aches forever. Then down the track panic sets in memories die what did there face look like what colour was their hair.Then distress feeling that you have let them down by forgetting certain thing's about them. When a person dies now everyone has pictures. 19 years ago when our in utro baby daughter died. That was that. When our baby granddaughter died at 8 months our son and daughter in law were asked if they would like a couple of photo's of alyssa of coarse the answer was yes. So to say it is awful or morbid is proof you haven't been in that situation. What I see is pain in the parent's faces the mother's tender touch hoping to see their child respond. The father trying to soldier on then he tenderly to hope's to see air in his child's lungs.

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    4. Most of these pictures are in fact of live people INCLUDING THE FIREMAN. The stand that is visible is called a 'posing' stand and was common place in Victorian photography. It was NOT used to hold up dead bodies. Victorians did like to take photographs of deceased people reclining and sometimes even sitting up as in life as to have a lasting imagine to mourn their loved one. They could not however do magical things with the dead. Things like making them stand up, LOOK HEALTHY AND ALIVE,smiling and holding objects etc. Don't be fooled when you see people advertising photographs claiming to be post mortem photographs because people look 'stiff' or awkward or the eyes look weird. This is simply people being people. The flash of a 100+ year flash, blue eyes, blurr when some moved, poor touch up and blushing or simply a strange looking person. Don't make a photograph into something it isn't! If you search through tintypes on Ebay right now you will see that perhaps 25-30% will have a posing stand visible on the ground in every full length tintype for sale! Does that mean that 25-30% of these people are dead? Of course not! It means that they were used everyday..because those are just the ones visible. The other 75% are hidden behind pant legs, skirts and tables. Please don't get swindled by bad sellers out to bilk you out of your money because they want to sell you the next fake 'fireman' standing post mortem. Be a SMART post mortem collector. :)

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    5. There is no doubt some of these people are alive. Posing stands were used on live people as well as the dead. It is a well known fact that the reason the people did post mortem photography was because pictures were expensive and had long exposure times. If u so much as flinched it would ruin an already expensive photo. There is nothing morbid or wrong with people capturing the last image they could of a loved one. It is people like whom ever made that comment that try to make it morbid. It was just common practice. And by the way if u don't like it you didn't have to look at it!

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    6. Why do all the good looking ones go...anyway..nobody has any bad luck rhese days..nobody looks anywhere near as beautiful as the past generations...

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    7. Most likely the only picture ever taken of them for the family to remember that they did exist.

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    8. No, a good many aren't. Some very obviously aren't.

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    9. I have a large collection of 19th century photos, and I agree that some of these are NOT clearly post-mortem photos. Don't be fooled by people staring (some had never seen a camera before, and often only one or two shots were taken, not hundreds as may be the case today) or even with their eyes shut. Don't be fooled by swollen or weak-looking eyes, either. This can be a sign of poor vision, other illness, or even allergies. Stiff posture could be tight corseting. And, of course, it's common to see the bracket that held your head still; photos took a while to take, so the bracket helped hold the subject's head still. That's also possibly a reason why people so rarely smiled in early photos. Oh, and the color blue looks white in some early photos, so people with blue eyes sometimes look a little strange. True post-mortem photos can be rather expensive and hard to find and there's no doubt that the subject is deceased. I certainly wouldn't pay lots of money for ANYTHING that I wasn't SURE about. If a person isn't used to looking at 19th century photos, he/she might be conned by a cagey dealer into spending a LOT more money than the photo is worth.

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    10. You are all such experts. The Fireman is dead. There are many close-up pictures of his face available in archives.
      People went to GREAT LENGTHS to make their deceased look living. Many were impossible to do so, but many were. check out The Thanatos Archive website

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    11. http://www.lomography.com/magazine/115210-memento-mori-men
      In this article is a better close-up shot of the Fireman

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    12. As for the eyes, the deceased eyes were not held open. The photographer etched in the eyes after the pose was conpleted in most cases.

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    13. for some people this looks wrong.....but if you where born in this era you properly wouldnt know better...(in reply on the top listed comment)

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    14. Most of these are of young children and babies and most definitely they are deceased. Some of them look so peaceful. They are sad pictures yet some are beautiful. You will find post mortem pictures taken in these modern times. Some of them can be dreadfully boring in comparison.

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    15. Any of the above photos where the person is standing is a photo of a LIVE person. Sorry, but the Victorian standing postmortem photo is an Internet myth. Stands were ONLY used to help hold the living still for long shutter exposures that could last up to 45 seconds. Posing stands could never hold up the weight of a corpse, especially since a corpse can not balance its weight on its feet. It’s head would drop and it would topple over. If you see a stand, they were alive. See: http://dealer042.wix.com/post-mortem-photos

      Also, the one in the easy chair, leaning on his hand, is Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) and we know he was not dead when this was taken. And...the baby with the black bow was in mourning, it was not dead.

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    16. I have done extensive research in the area of Victorian day-to-day practices as well as funerary customs. Post-mortem photography (if it could be afforded) was as much a part of
      Victorian existence as modern-day rituals are to us in the 21st century. It was neither morbid, gross, nor disrespectful, in fact, quite the opposite. The purpose was not only to capture a loved one's visage for a lasting keepsake but it was also considered a respected celebration of one's life, as long or as short as it was. And sorry to bust your claim that a standing post-mortem photo is an internet myth.....because it certainly is not! I have a post-mortem photo of an ancestral young adult relative who was "standing". - She was propped up by her waist which was cinched (hidden for the most part by a draped shawl)to a heavy iron prop stand representing a fence post. And her head was held up by a live person standing behind and covered in a cloak that blended with the backdrop. Her eyes were naturally open as is the case with MANY deceased persons but her gaze was not upon the camera. The photo was taken approximately 10 hours after death. These details were all carefully documented by the woman's sister in her diary. Without this information, you would not have believed the person in the photo was dead. Upon very close inspection, I was able to confirm what the diary revealed. This is precisely what sparked my interest in this subject matter! The condition of the body and realism in a post-mortem photo is directly dependent upon how soon a photo can be taken following the moment of death (except in the case of damage by fire, other accident or a disfiguring disease) The photos where the subjects appear to be completely alive were no doubt taken within hours, up to a day after death. A body can be easily posed within the first couple of hours before rigor mortis takes hold, first with the facial features, including eyelids. Rigor mortis is often responsible for "holding a pose" but sometimes it would cause a pose to become "undone" or unnatural looking. After around 30 hours, the rigor will subside and the body will again become pliable but deterioration can become quite evident at that point. Photographers were not without their skills and methods as well....some photographers were better at it than others, just as some morticians/post-mortem make-up artists are better than others in today's world. Photos were often colored in to represent blushing cheeks, and to enhance lip hue, and "living" eye color. These methods were also commonly used to enhance the photos of live people as well. Photographers were often "reserved" to come at a moments notice when death was imminent. A wide variety of props and tricks were used, depending on how the mourners wished for their loved ones (including pets) to be memorialized. Still, for many skeptics, if sunken eyes and dried-up hands are not evident in a photo, it is difficult to believe the subject is dead. But because countless of these photos have been accompanied by clear documentation in the forms of hand-written diaries and photographic records and receipts, and because these are still turning up in attics and other places that have not seen the light of day in over a century, I can only conclude that the Victorians were very adept at bringing their dead "back to life" for their final photo. It is true that there are unscrupulous dealers out there who try to pass off a live person photo as post-mortem just because it "looks that way". And there may be some such photos in the collection pictured here. but I tend to think that most of these were confirmed by solid evidence of some kind. So unless you have verifiable documentation accompanying a post-mortem photo, it's "Buyer Beware"......

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  2. How do you know that the two girls are post-mortem and the fireman?

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    1. Everyone who is deceased and standing up are propped up with something.. similar to a coat rack. The Fireman one I've come across before. If you look at his feet, you can see one of the feet of said 'coat rack'... his eyes are a really big hint, too. I get that this picture is too small, so I've taken the liberty of finding you a larger picture
      http://cloud.lomography.com/576/769/f6/25ab458272063490e60be905df9bfb47067d59.jpg
      Also, with the two girls... The way the one girl is holding the picture is an indicator. It seems like she doesn't have a grip on the picture at all, though it's arguable. The one standing up is easier to identify than the fireman. With women, you can tell that they're propped up by the way their dress looks. See how it's all wrinkled compared to the girl sitting? And just look at her pose. It looks like a mannequin.
      Some pictures are alot easier to identify than others (obviously). I'd assume that the wealthier families would have a photographer do everything in his power to make it look like the relative was alive.

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    2. They aren't dead. Read the post above. The 4th reply to the 1st comment explains it. However, I don't agree that "most" are alive. There are a few misplaced photos. The rest are very nice examples taken from other sources and should be credited.

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  3. Hello,

    This is a link with postmortem photographs from past to present day:

    http://edencash.forumactif.net/t785-montrer-la-mort-ou-la-cacher-photographies-funeraires#8322

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  4. The (London) Daily Mail thinks these are so good that it's lifted some of them and stuck it's own copyright sign on; no acknowledgement that you've collected them, just a vague mention of Reddit. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2270169/Post-mortem-photography-Morbid-gallery-reveals-Victorians-took-photos-DEAD-relatives-posing-couches-beds-coffins.html

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    1. I didn't see any sources from this post. These have been posted and reported many times by many people, most don't give credit for the source. I have several of these in various books I own. Most of the time the really nice, touching or odd ones will come from the following sources: The Thanatos Archive website, Stanley Burns Archive ( he has published many books on the subject) and Paul Frecker's website. I would hesitate to trust any research or fact finding done on the Internet unless it contained scholarly and trustworthy sources.
      Out of the 150 photos posted here, around 20 are no doubt living subjects, while a half dozen are "premortems" and still a few others, hard to tell. Any true standing postmortems are going to be obviously dead.

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  5. HHello,
    This is an interesting link with postmortem photographs from past to present day:

    http://edencash.forumactif.net/t785-montrer-la-mort-ou-la-cacher-photographies-funeraires#8322

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  6. I Agree.. Some are no way dead.. Like for instance the fireman.. And who said?

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  7. The sixth picture is just Lewis Carroll (alive) behind his camera. But anyway, thanks a lot for all that pictures.

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  8. Until recently I wasn't aware of post mortum photography. I recently listened to an interview by a lady who wrote a thesis on this subject. Now I've viewed these photos I feel that I understand why these families needed to have a photographic memory of their cherished loved ones, unfortunatly memories do fade with time and this can be more devistating than the original loss. Having recently lost a family member whilst still young, I would liked to have had an opportunity to photograph them because I was unaware how peaceful they look, and for those of us grieving to look at a photo would be beneficial. Funeral Homes should offer this option to clients. These photos were beautiful thankyou.

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    1. When my brother died 22 years ago the funeral home did take a picture of him in his casket. At the time I was sickened. Now, all this time later I would like to see him as he was the very last time I saw him.

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  9. This may seem strange to us but death is a natural part of life, and these days it is such a taboo subject. It does seem extreme but it helped people to accept a loved ones death, now people don't talk about it, and when it happens find it very hard to accept, as the funeral directors take the body, dress and do everything that these people in the victorian days did them selves. The photos were on most occasions the only photo the loved ones would have of their relatives so i can understand why they made such an effort.

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  10. Also with the fireman, another hint is to check out the "belt", they often tied the person to the coat rack using the belt, in his case you can see theyve pulled the belt in super tight

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    1. He's NOT dead. This has turned into an "urban legend". The coatracks is a posing stand which was commonly used on EVERYONE. They could in no way support a dead body.

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    2. I think your response is the urban legend. How many living men have white eyes and walk around with their waist cinched in 3 inches with a belt? I guess it's possible, but it's just as possible that you're as wrong as you accuse others of being.

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    3. The coat racks are for living subjects, not dead. You can find advertisements and pamphlets from the time period on the posing stands. They were for the living. No mention at all of being used for the dead.

      The white eyes are because cameras from that time period were extra sensitive to blue. Blue eyes would get washed out in the photos. Additionally, moving your eyes while having your picture taken would also blur them and make them appear absent.

      Post mortem photography definitely existed and was fairly common, but people like to label every "creepy" picture that didn't turn out right as one. Sometimes even photographs that are completely normal get labeled.

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    4. I'm guessing a live fireman as well. The eyes get messed up sometimes during long exposures as the person blinks (think about not blinking for up to 30 minutes). The posing stand is a pretty normal thing for live people...probably used more often than not due to the necessity of not moving for a long period of time (and the possibility of a ruined image due to unintentional movement).

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  11. in the present day i can why this is stated as unacceptable or strange but in those days this was a wonderful and fantastic idea, if my loved ones or myself was to die i would love to have a post mortem photograph of my loved ones as a keep sake i love the idea and beauty of these photos i have been studying this subject for a little while and it is a subject that i am just dawn to i think that todays society need something like this to offer i would do it within a heart beat
    just stunning

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  12. These photos are so beautiful. Absolutely mesmerizeing.

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  13. I think today the vast majority have become detached from Death and it's viewed as a taboo subject. I think the first time I knew of these type of pictures was during watching 'The Others' movie. In Victorian times and even afterwards death was much nearer to people than today and people used to bring coffins back to the house for days before the funeral.

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    the interlace condo

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  15. Please learn something about the practice of photography in the 19th century! The base seen behind the standing people here is not proof that they are dead but that they are alive and could move and spoil the picture. This is called a posing stand or a head brace and in no way was used or able to hold anyone up. In the 19th century when exposures were several seconds the head brace made it easier for the subject to stand still. There are many real post mortem photographs made and many shown here are indeed post mortems. That said ALL the standing and several of the others are very ordinary photographs or very alive people. I have studied and taught the history of photography and collected post mortems for more than 30 years and I am appalled at the incorrect information that is flooding the internet and with the multiple sellers on eBay of blatantly mislabeled post mortem photographs.

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    1. The picture of the two women, one standing the other sitting disputes your theory. Look at the hands of the standing one. She is obviously deceased.

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    2. Says someone posting anonymously on the internet.

      They used the stands on both living and dead.

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    3. Says someone posting anonymously on the internet.

      They used the stands on both living and dead.

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  16. My heart melted when I seen all the babies. I have a 4mo old daughter

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    1. you are a truly digusting and sicj person. Get help. Who says f*** her aboit a random baby? You're sick.

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  17. The composure of family members is be be of awe. The grace and customs of that time showed strong values of acceptance of death unlike now where we all become voyeurs in someone' misery

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  18. You jerks! I cannot believe you think any of these people were alive when their photograph was taken!
    All you need to do is stare into the face of death, the lack of a soul, the dilated eyes, blank stares, the concave chest of the fireman, the stiffness of the propped up bodies BECAUSE A DEAD BODY WOULD REQUIRE A POLE TO HOLD IT UP!, the loose hands and arms...many of the phoyos have heavy touch ups. but you ARE looking at the dearly departed.

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    1. It is amazing how ignorant you are to the history of 19th century photography, the use of Posing stands, and the scientific facts about what it would actually involve trying to get a corpse to appear to be standing and look even half that alive. The seventh photo from the bottom clearly shows two children very much ALIVE with the Posing stands being used as props in this case. The two Posing stands appear to have had the neck supporters removed, and if utilized, would have helped prevent the slight movement made by the taller subject causing a blurry face. Posing stands were made for and intended to prevent such movements from occurring during the photographic process, NOT for "supporting" a dead body in a standing position. SERIOUS collectors of 19th century postmortem photos know the facts, as do serious collectors of 19th C. photography. And really, even if one does an internet search on this subject, it wont take long at all to find that the "STANDING postmortem" by way of a "stand" with wires and/or other devises is no more than a mythical idea and was NOT a common practice, and are essentially non existent. An AUTHENTIC standing postmortem (body in standing pose,) from the 19th century would be extremely rare and would involve a lot more than a Posing stand or a "pole" with a belt & wires. DO YOUR HOME WORK! Obviously you are not well educated in the different processes of 19th c. photography, or the history of postmortem photography.

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    2. It sounds like you're unaware of the effects of rigor mortis and the rigidity of a body that's been dead for awhile. A well-anchored pole could indeed support a body for portraiture and it wouldn't require winches, wires or anything of the sort, assuming the body had been posed prior to the onset of rigor mortis. Trying to pose a recumbant body afterwards would entail the breaking of bones and other damage, which would likely make any posing difficult or impossible.

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    3. Rigor mortis starts 3-4 hours after death and the body reaches full rigidity after around 12 hours. Rigor isn't permanent, it dissipates gradually after around 24 hours. A body doesn't stay stiff, so it could be reposed once rigor dissipates.

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  19. I do believe that a couple of the standing photos are actually deceased. Notice that the hands are very dark & mottled, a very different color from their faces & of the hands of the others in the photo. I also noticed the bunched up dresses, as if being slightly lifted from behind. One actually has a curtain gathered behind where you can distinguish that hands (or something) is on the other side holding up the body.

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  20. Love post mortem pix I want mines too!

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  21. The picture where the lady is holding the baby with the white dress and the big bow on the shoulder... I do not believe either one of them is dead. If you are dead your muscles are completely relaxed... so obvsiouly the mother is not dead, and the baby is holding her head up and you can tell by the facial expression, the muscles are not relaxed. They are both looking intently. Look at the eyebrows, too. A few of these pictures are definitely not postmortem, but a lot are.

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  22. A very decent amount of these aren't post mortem.

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  23. What a joke. Do some research and realize that you have posted many photos of people who are NOT dead. By the way, nice photo of "dead" Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) who wrote Alice in Wonderland. Wonder how he did that, being dead and all in that photo that was taken years before he wrote his famous book?

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    1. Haha i noticed that picture to lol

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    2. Anyone who is standing alone was alive. See this website for proof: http://dealer042.wix.com/post-mortem-photos

      Anyone holding their own head up, focusing their own eyes on the camera or sitting up straight was alive. Anyone with a stand behind them was alive because stands were ONLY used to help keep live people still during long shutter exposures. They could not support the dead weight of a corpse, even a child.

      The baby with the black bow was in mourning. It was not dead.

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  24. As a nurse I have handled countless dead bodies. No way could any pole be used to support their weight, and no way could they be posed after they very quickly stiffen with rigor. It just is not possible.

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    1. As a Nurse, I would think you would also know that Rigor usually only lasts for a 24 hours period. Most of these pictures were taken after Rigor left. In these days, it was not at all uncommon to have a body around a house for days and even weeks until burial.

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    2. True but bodies were often posed soon after death and rigor
      mortis, once set in, would generally preserve the pose.
      And yes, rigor does subside and the body will again be in a state where posing is possible. For families where mourners traveled from great distances, bodies were indeed kept in the "parlor" of the house for extended periods of time until burial. One more comment....I DO know of iron poles, with well anchored or weighted bases that could EASILY support the weight of 500lbs or more. I don't think Lisa A. is really a nurse.

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  25. "OK dear, now come and pose in this picture next to your dead brother."

    " . . . but Mooooooooom!"

    "I SAID GET IN THE PICTURE!!"

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  26. Here is a standing, post-mortemm photo that I saw on the Thanatos website: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/439945457319613171/

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  27. To those of you who are saying that posing with deceased siblings is affecting the children, I would point out that you have little understanding of how Death was dealt with at this time. Funeral homes were not that popular yet and most funerals took place at home. The deceased would be displayed in the "Parlor" (What we call the "Living Room" today, which you can thank the Funeral Industry for) and Death was far more common. These kids would likely have seen a number of dead bodies by then, and it didn't hold the same distant horror that it holds today. The death of a loved one was something that was dealt with, in all meanings of the word at home, by the family. You are attempting to put today's standards and morality on History. You can not do this if you wish to understand the past.

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  28. it's been my experience, because i work in a rest home, that wheather sitting up, or lying down, the jaw most of the time hangs open, and if sitting up a bit, the head always leans to the left or right. i hear that it's not possible for them to stand, but my question is, if riggor sets in...why can't they? just sayin.

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  29. Photographers where/are artists. How can anyone here say for certain that stands where not used to prop up the dead? Where you there? And anyone that thinks a stand could not prop up a dead person severely underestimate the intelligence of the photographers. Wood came in all sorts of strengths back then as it does now. And why for a second would anyone doubt that some stands could have been made from steel. It is true that they approached death differently back then. Some countries still practise what others may label macabre post mortem rituals, like displaying the bones etc. If you wanted to take a photo of a deceased person, and make it look as life like as possible, then why on earth wouldn't they have used sturdy stands to prop up the dead? It just absurd to outright rule it out. Truth is, there really is not conclusive way to tell if any of them are dead or not. Rigor mortis (allowing rigid poses to be held) doesn't take long to wear off, true, but one could easily assume that many deaths occurred in town, close to a photography studio making it easier to produce. And if you understand the era, 'cracking' a person into shape would not have phased them, in fact I would not be surprised if they timed it to assist with the process. Why do people assume that they were to dumb to think of these things back then. That is first class ignorance. AND..... it was happening all over the world....So who really knows how many different styles and techniques were being employed.... Because you read it or studied it. Did EVERY SINGLE photographer write their own book or even pass on their techniques? Who could afford to self publish, and there really were so many photographers why would anybody write a book for each of them?

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  30. I have an uncl who diyd and we got photo of him stand up aftr he diyd. ow town do it thes daz

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  31. Picture no. 15 from up above - the standing woman with the candle. Does anyone have some info about that photo? Who she was? Why she died? It looks like she's wearing a wedding dress. Also it looks like she was either born into a wealthy family or married a wealthy man - or both! The jewlery in her hand tells me so. A name could be nice. Thank you in advance.

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    1. That's a Young person at their 1st communion or confirmation. She is most certainly not dead. Posing stands were only used for live people to remind them to hold still

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  32. Once rigor mortis passes, that's when the body begins to decompose. The body starts to fill up with gasses that cause an intolerable odor. I am no expert on whether or not these photos are truly post mortem, I'm just sayin' It would be pretty hard to keep a rotting body around the house for very long....

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    1. That's exactly what I was thinking. They didn't embalm much back then, so they had to get the photographer there fast. They also didn't have restorative art like we have now, and a deceased person won't look natural for very long without it.

      There weren't phones to call a photographer on either. Perhaps when someone was dying they contacted the photographer ahead of time to get that last picture.

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  33. Indeed as several people have stated a good number of these images are not post mortem. They are live people with a posing stand to help them stand still. The emulsions of the time were over sensitive to blue and blue eyes can look white. The easies to to prove is the one of the man sitting in a leather chair and leaning on his hand. It is an identified portrait of Lewis Carroll and he lived for many years after this photograph was made. Some are of very ill people but not yet dead and some are jokes. These are perfect examples of the danger of getting information from the internet.

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  34. Beautiful photography. The people who captured all these photos are just so talented.

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  35. Some are dead some are not interesting to try and decide very fasinating

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  36. http://dealer042.wix.com/post-mortem-photos

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  37. So many of them were children. We take it for granted that our children will live and be healthy. It's a reminder how many children died before modern medicine.

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  38. What about the people in coffins? Were *they* still alive when the photos were taken? Did the Victorians enjoy posing for portraits in coffins? And what about the little boy sitting with his head flopping listlessly to the right? Are you saying that kid fell asleep and no one woke him up before snapping the shot? He sure looks dead to ME.

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    1. Kids are more likely to not move when they are sleeping, so yes! Possibly! The ones in the coffins are dead. Some that are laying are dead. A few that are upright were actually posed laying then turned to appear as if upright. But some were just boring old alive people with boring old bored expressions, waiting for this guy to finish up their photo so they could continue their boring old lives.

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    2. "Kids are more likely to not move when they are sleeping" ??? You definitely aren't a parent! Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying ALL children, ALL the time, but they move OFTEN and unpredictably in sleep! As expensive as these photos were to make, I can't imagine they would risk taking a photo of ANYONE sleeping. A good jerk, shift, or any movement beyond a twitch would likely ruin an exposure, as well as waste money. Could it have been done? I suppose (unlike a lot of "experts and so richly informed" people here, I rarely say anything is impossible, ESPECIALLY when speaking on a subject that no one here can be witness to) but I sincerely doubt it.

      Now everyone tell me how dumb and ignorant I am! 3-2-1 TROLL!

      Delete
  39. The people in coffins are dead. All the people standing and more than a few of the seated people are NOT dead. I have collected and studied the history of photography for more than 40 years and can say with absolute certainty that the posing stand was NEVER used to hold up dead people. There was noting on a posing stand to attach a body. They were also called head rests since the head and back simply touched it to help the subject to hold still and in place. The fireman is not dead. His eyes are not white they were light blue which recorded as white with the emulsion of the time. The dark hands are not a sign of death either. Red recorded as very dark so sunburned hands would be darker.

    You have been sold a load of myths by dishonest eBay sellers and clueless Pinterest posters.

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    1. Indeed you are right... let's also remember the long exposure times and the need to remain still meant that posing stands were used on children to keep them from fidgeting.

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  40. Who's dead in the pic of the dad, kid in rocking horse and mum? It either has to be the dad, both of them which could be the horror on the boys face or all 3.

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  41. Does anyone have any information about the photo girl0000.jpg?
    I've researched it to be around 1877 and the young girl may be called Catherine but I'm trying to find out more information. Does anyone have any leads?
    edmundos at ihug dot co dot nz

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  42. im trying to find out information on the second picture down, as the little girl in the picture is identica lto my daughter??

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  43. Clearly some are not dead. Would the people who posted these photos please explain why they think that the two young ladies (one standing, one sitting holding photo) are DEAD? If they look like they are alive, you must have some reason you are telling us they are dead. You posted the photos. Please explain or remove them!

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    1. You know I think it's morbid today to do that but not so long ago. The reason not everyone had a camera to afford to take a picture. Today there is no excuse to take a picture. Understand?

      Delete
    2. Agreed. The photo of the 2 girls, standing and sitting is totally false. No way were these 2 dead and who ever thought they were! I interpret that the standing girl is supposed to be deceased and all I can gather as evidence is her hands are darker. However she's laced into a pretty tight corset... are they saying that killed her although it probably helped deform her internal organs eventually. This photo does the rounds on the Web each time you run a search and it's laughable. People want to see post mortem photos, and photo with age featuring a child has turned sensationalised into a phenomenon of dead kid pictures when half of them are not. Theyre just waiting for the exposure and losing the will to live... not necessarily done it yet.
      Use your common sense people. Not all victorian photos feature dead people. If they're standing up its a good inclination they're alive too!

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  44. These photos haunt me I had no idea at all that that such photos were taken I find them heartbreaking especially the children I wish I had never seen them though because I feel compelled to return and look at them from time to time as a grandmother I am overwhelmed and sad when I see them especially the little girl sat among her dolls

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  45. Many of these are NOT dead people. Some are merely sick or frail.

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  46. Much of this is wrong. This myth is debunked (with academic sources) here: http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous/2016/06/19/myth-victorian-post-mortem-photography/

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  47. The Victorian era was beautiful, everything was done in a large way. The pictures
    were probably a comfort to the parents and friend of the deseased.

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  48. About half of the photos appearing on this page were taken of LIVE subjects. For example, the man in the chair is Lewis Caroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland. We know he was not dead when this was taken. The whole "standing postmortem" thing is an internet myth. You can find plenty of Victorian postmortems but none are sitting up straight and holding their own heads up, nor are they standing with the help of a stand. Those stands were only to help live people stand still for long shutter exposures that could last 45 seconds, any movement would blur the photo. See: http://dealer042.wix.com/post-mortem-photos

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  49. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  50. Stands were ONLY used to help hold the living still for long shutter exposures that could last up to 45 seconds. Posing stands could never hold up the weight of a corpse, especially since a corpse can not balance its weight on its feet. It’s head would drop and it would topple over. If you see a stand, they were alive.

    Please do not get your postmortem info from sites like ViraNova, Dose, BuzzFeed , io9 or any other heavily advertised site. These sites will let anyone put up anything as long as it drives traffic to their site because they are paid by the click. See this site, no ads: http://dealer042.wix.com/post-mortem-photos

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  51. Post-Mortem Photography Prop For Standing Portraits:
    The Fireman. Yes, this man is dead. If you look closely, you can see the stand keeping him in an upright position behind his feet.
    http://i.imgur.com/EYAtWFJ.jpg
    http://radikal.ru/big/afb2ca6ab8784e70bba2bfbdb5f87e50

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  52. As the son of a homicide detective, I've heard a great deal of how rigor mortise locks a person into the positing they died in, in a matter of hours. From this, I can only surmise that many of the posed photos must have been taken before rigor mortise set in, but I also see that a great number of these were taken professionally, as most families did not own and could not operate complicated photo equipment, that existed at that time. The point being that in less than 24 hour after death, a corpse is not a floppy rag doll that can just be positioned at will. So, how did they manipulate these bodies, if they could not be photographed within hours of death?

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    1. Steven, that is because those were live subjects. They are stiffly posed using a posing stand so that their movement does not ruin the photo that has a shutter speed of 30 to 45 seconds. I have worked with period photographers.

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  53. It was a horrifyingly morbid practice. I think it was criminal to make young children pose with their deceased sibling. How traumatizing it must have been.
    I saw one pic of a girl with her dead brother practically draped across her lap. The look on her face said it all. She was disturbed by the whole thing.
    A precious momento is a picture of your ALIVE loved one. Not a pose with a corpse

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  54. About 1/3 of the above were alive. Some of them are laughable. The man in the leather chair is famous. He is Lewis Carroll who wrote Alice in Wonderland. We know he was alive in that photo. Anyone standing was alive. Stands were ONLY used to help hold the living still for long shutter exposures that could last up to 45 seconds. Posing stands could never hold up the weight of a corpse, especially since a corpse can not balance its weight on its feet. It’s head would drop and it would topple over. If you see a stand, they were alive. See: http://dealer042.wix.com/post-mortem-photos

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    1. You say that "anyone standing is alive" . Yet, in this series of picture, there's what seems to be an ad for an undertaker, with a mention that the subject is dead, and he's standing.

      I'm sure that plenty of pictures labelled post-mortem are in fact of living people with an eerie look, but how could you affirm that none are?

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  55. Girl in the white "wedding dress". Of all the mislabeled postmortem photos on Pinterest, this one irks me most. I guess it is because I am Catholic. This is a live girl having her photo taken for her First Communion. She is in a standard pose, rosary in left hand and candlestick in the right. Stands were ONLY used to help live people keep still for long shutter exposures. See this site: http://dealer042.wix.com/post-mortem-photos
    And here is a page full of similarly attired and posed girls, all alive: https://www.google.nl/search?q=cabinet+card+communion+photo&biw=1680&bih=916&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=z55OVYOxN6qZ7Abqt4Ao&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ#tbm=isch&q=cabinet+card+girl+communion

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  56. http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous/2016/06/19/myth-victorian-post-mortem-photography/

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