Beyond the Dark Veil – beautifully macabre collection of victorian post-mortem photography


Given the current practice of dressing up and photographing stillborn babies, this hasn’t entirely died out.

I see where you’re coming from but the two are actually very different. The folks in these photos lived a life (even if it was a short one), interacted with their loved ones and left some tangible trail of existence.

The current practice of photographing infants immediately after delivery, whether the infant was unexpectedly stillborn or in the case of a necessary interruption of a non viable, late term pregnancy, is a way to honor a life that almost was. This is to give parents something of their child to take into the future other than a horrific experience and tiny bag of ashes. As for the “dressing up”, I’m aware only of minimal swaddling so that the parents may have a few moments with the infant before he or she is taken away. This is the brief moment in which these rudimentary photos are taken.

In 1990 Twelve Trees Press published, “Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America”. It’s a selection of post mortem photos from the collection of Dr. Stanley Burns. A smaller, second volume was published later.

Ah, no, those aren’t the kind of photos I was referring to. The ones I’ve seen, the dead infants are dressed up, typically in christening gowns.

Except for being in colour, they’re very similar to the Victorian ones.

There is a FANTASTICALLY wonderful documentary that originally aired on PBS called A Family Undertaking. It really opened my eyes regarding the funeral industry and our roots regarding the rituals currently practiced. After watching that, I ran across a picture of a young boy in a coffin, propped against a tree that was mixed in with very old family pictures! Prior to seeing that documentary, I would have been disturbed by the image. Now I feel like that picture must have been very precious to someone, but sadly I have no idea who the child was!

Thanatos Archive’, obviously. And they have a great website, too.

I’m really looking forward to seeing this when I can find a copy this side of the Atlantic.

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.