Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Death: Photographic Studies

Great link from my email buddy, Fred Lapides, at GoodShit.
(You do visit his site every day, don't you?)

Photographing the deceased is something that really isn't done anymore.  I think most people (Americans especially) would find such photos, if not distasteful, then certainly disrespectful.  Me, I find them fascinating.  But then again, I would.

I used to have a gal pal who worked as a rep for a photofinishing company back in the Seventies.  She put the word out to the folks who worked in the kiosks that she was interested in photos of dead people.  She accumulated quite a collection.  The photos were all from recent deaths and in the colors of the 70's.  They looked garish and kitschy.  Not unlike a photo of a businessman and his secretary leaving a motel room as taken by a private detective.  I can only imagine that digital photography would render them even more undignified.

Not so with these daguerreotypes.  There is love, dignity and beauty in these pictures.  A time before major medical interventions, the medico-legal bureaucracies and even funeral homes were common in most communities.  Death in those days was a family matter, and families took care of their own.

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