Perhaps the most controversial genre I collect is post-mortem photography. The unsuspecting who come to my apartment and see an item such as the one shown above...well, let's just say people seem to find it somehow "inappropriate." I'm not sure what's so inappropriate about post-mortem photography. Perhaps, the people who have that reaction don't understand it. Perhaps, the notion of a dead child is just too disturbing for them to bear. It points to our own fragility as mortals-- even children can die-- none of us are safe. Perhaps, people then were more comfortable with death-- it wasn't as taboo-- because mortality rates were higher.
In the 1840's when people began getting their photographs taken, it was an expensive affair. People took it very seriously, as such, and were very formal in their poses, expressions, and dress. Many people would only afford to have one photo taken of themselves in their lifetimes. In the case of children and infants with high mortality rates, parents often had no photographs of them from before they died. This is very different from today, when parents can begin taking hundreds of digital photographs as soon as the slimy, little thing emerges from the birth canal. Given the lack of photographs taken in life, parents in the 19th century began having their children's photographs taken in death. Adult post-mortem photographs were also taken, but this was less common. The photographs would serve as a memorial to their loved ones. Something to remember them by.