Wednesday, August 20, 2014

C&LM: Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America

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This series is a bit morbid, but if you are fascinated by the idea that it was once very popular to take portraits of your recently deceased family members then these books are for you. I came across the concept of memorial photography at work when a patron called asking for photographers for their deceased relative. I honestly had no idea that people did this so after I hung up with them I searched around and found that this was a very common practice beginning in the 19th century. 

I picked up the first two books of the Sleeping Beauty series by Stanley B. Burns and was hooked. In book one there are mainly just pictures, which range from infants to adults, some alone and some surrounded by family. It was sad to me to read that sometimes these were the only photos the family had of their loved ones since photography was still a newer concept and it was very expensive. Book two gave a little more background about the people in the pictures if it was known, and also had a timeline of when memorial photography became popular and how it spread. The books were short in terms of words but the photos really spoke for themselves and showed you how the family wanted their loved one remembered by the way they were positioned or what items they included in the picture. I'm sorry if these were a little too disturbing for some of you but I really found this concept interesting.


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