Human society has come a very long way since the Victorian Era. In addition to nearly eradicating polio, we have seemingly grown to respect the dead enough not to dress them up and take pictures of them. But this wasn’t always the case. The practice of “post-mortem photography” (that is, photographing the dead) is exactly what it sounds like.
By today’s standards, this is would be pretty taboo, but at the time it was seen as quite normal.
Though the practice has declined in popularity over the years, there is still plenty of evidence left to examine. Here are 21 of the most unsettling examples of Victorian post-mortem photography we could find.
1. They would sometimes make it look like the deceased was sleeping.
2. At the time, the photography process was slow and you could not move while the photo was being taken.
3. In this case below, they positioned the man’s arm in order to support the head.
4. They would use props such as curtains so that someone could hide to hold the head up.
5. They appeared to actually look alive.
6. They were meant to serve as mementos of the deceased loved one.
7. I could only imagine how hard this was for families.
8. There is something about the eyes.
9. The pain in the parent’s faces show how hard it must have been.
10. It was common for the subjects to be made to “look-alive.”
11. They had to remain very still. Here is an example of what happens when people moved. The parents did and they are blurry as a result
12. In this photograph the girl on the far left is being supported by a hidden structure.
13. This little girl is sitting sideways on the chair so that the device propping her up is hidden.
14. This girl is sitting in someone’s lap.
15. Photographers employed a variety of tricks to make their subjects look more life-like.
16. Like posing this girl with her toys.
17. It was common for family members pose with their dead loved ones for these photographs.
18. One of the most common ways they did this was posing people with their favorite things (like this man in a chair with his dogs).
19. Other times it wasn’t possible to make their subjects look alive
20. So they would make them appear they were asleep.
21. In this photograph, the girl standing in the middle is the deceased. The photographer attempted to make her look more alive by drawing on her pupils.
There might still be a lot of bad stuff out there but at least we’re not drawing eyes on it to make it look better for photographs. Can you believe people actually did this?