Memento Mori

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Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning “Remember you shall die”. In the Victorian era, photography was young and extremely costly. When a loved one died, their relatives would sometimes have a photograph taken of the corpse in a pose – oftentimes with other members of the family. For the vast majority of Victorians, this was the only time they would be photographed. In these post-mortem photographs, the effect of life was sometimes enhanced by either propping the subject’s eyes open or painting pupils onto the photographic print, and many early images have a rosy tint added to the cheeks of the corpse. Adults were more commonly posed in chairs or even braced on specially-designed frames. Flowers were also a common prop in post-mortem photography of all types. In the photo above, the fact that the girl is dead is made slightly more obvious (and creepy) by the fact that the slight movement of her parents causes them to be slightly blurred due to the long exposure time, while the girl is deathly still and, thus, perfectly in focus.

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