Yes this is true, these pictures of dead babies are all real. And in some cultures it was a pretty common practice. To our shock it was considered quite acceptable. Post mortem photography was also known as memorial portraiture or a “mourning portrait”. The practice of taking pictures of family members after their death was considered very normal. It was a part of American and European Culture till the 19th and Early 20th century.
It is quite shocking because photography was very expensive at that time and also quite rare, it sounds very unlikely that why people opted for getting their dead family members photographed. As surprising it maybe it is all true. The so called postmortem photographs were used for grieving and also provided as a remembrance for the deceased loved ones, considered precious.
Why Photographs Of Dead Babies were so common
All these developments took place after 1839, as portraiture ( photography ) became more common and much more affordable than sitting and getting yourself painted. In the words of historian Mary Warner “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.” and also added “many daguerreotype post-mortem portraits, especially those of infants and young children, were probably the only photographs ever made of the ‘sitters. In the Victorian era, the child mortality rate was very high. So dead babies photographed was a very common place.
There were many types of photographs such as the face close ups and full portraits. What is interesting is the fact that the photographs were sign of a person’s last social presence and so they were all dressed up in their best clothes specially for the custom. The dead babies were captured positioned so as to look like in their deep sleep, arranged accordingly. The dead babies were also usually applied make up on their cheeks to look more life like and presentable.
And also these infants/young children corpse were photographed with their families for special portraits. The most common pictures being them photographed with their mother holding them. Later with the changing trends they also starting photographing dead people in their coffins, often at funerals in the presence of large group of people. While the dead people in the family pictures provided as a memento, the other living members had metal stands placed with them as a sign that they were alive.
In the coming of the 20th century however the trend slowly declined as photography became more common and personal. As everybody could take their own photographs, it became a matter of personal choice. Naturally people slowly opted out of this bizarre custom.
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