Category: Photographic and Visual Art Representations of the Dead

Victorian Post-Mortem Photography

Culturally speaking, the tradition of post mortem art predated photography, was a common practice within wealthy groups of people. This was essentially thought of as maintaining a sense of life after death, in children and adults alike. Before the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839, post mortem portraits, generally presented at funerals, were limited to those wealthy enough to afford a painter[1]. After the daguerreotype became a common societal resource in 1841, this practice of maintaining life through photography became accessible to the general population, and even was representative of technological advantages in preserving bodies. By 1850, the cost of a daguerreotype was only twenty-five cents, making post mortem photographs a widespread cultural phenomenon.

Typically, these photographs were associated with mourning rituals and commonly involved deceased children or infants, due to the unfortunate childhood diseases at the time. The people of the Victorian time period are typically associated with an obsession of death. It was a huge part of their culture, as the average life expectancy was significantly lower due to poor hygiene, disease, and lack of prenatal care. A historian by the name of Gorer suggested, “It can have been a rare individual who, in the nineteenth century with its high mortality rate, had not witnessed at least one actual dying, as well as paying their respect to “beautiful corpses”; funerals were the occasion of the greatest display for [all] classes.”[2] This obsession was famously portrayed by Queen Victoria, as she mourned the loss of her husband for nearly four decades. She wore mourning attire and followed his daily routine as if he was still living. The reason why death was so apparent in Victorian society is as simple as the high mortality rate due to disease and labor conditions. Carol Christ, an expert on the Victorian fascination with death explains, “In London, in 1830, the average lifespan for middle to upper-class males was 44 years, 25 for tradesman and 22 for laborers. Fifty-seven of every 100 children in working class families were dead by five years of age.”[3] Mourning was also heavily ritualized, requiring women to mourn for years at a time. Mementos, including post mortem photography and locks of hair from the deceased were kept around the house, in memoriam of them.

Deceased Child
Photographer unknown, photo circa 1850

[4]

Though the practice of photographic the dead may be seen as strange in today’s society, it was accepted throughout the entirety of Victorian culture as a way to celebrate the person in life. Some were strategically posed in a lifelike manner, “sometimes the subject is seated upright on a chair or couch with its hands crossed in its lap and the eyes closed,”[5] and often placed by their loved ones as a sort of final family portrait. Objects, such as a child’s favorite toy are placed around the body, to create a more lifelike appearance. This was common when there were no other photographs of the deceased. According to historians Andrea M. Patawaran-Hickman and Rachael Wintering, these photographs were often the only ones ever taken of their loved one, meaning it was their only source of remembrance of that person, “As unusual as it may seem to us today, post-mortem photography used to have strong sentimental value to living relatives.  For some people, the deceased photograph of the individual may have been the only photograph ever taken. The photograph may have been one of the few tangible objects in which the family members could memorialize the life of the deceased.” Essentially the portrait was seen as a sense of preservation or immortality, the overwhelming thought of the time being that remembrance was of utmost importance for family members and future generations.

 

African American woman holding her deceased child Photographer: Jaynes, A. D.
Circa 1860-70

[6]

Another common way of photographic the deceased, which was more prevalent in adults and used frequently in the latter half of the nineteenth century, is the “last sleep” position. The departed were photographed in their beds or sofa, often immediately after passing. They were frequently covered by a sheet with pictures of the entire bodies being minimal, as the common practice was close ups. These photographs were less personal, “Rarely is the photograph personalized, i.e., designed to convey something about the deceased as an individual. Even when objects are present, they look more like standard props used to enhance the composition than the personal property of the deceased.”[7] The ideology behind photographing the deceased to look like they were sleeping is suggested by historian James Farrell that death itself is natural and gentle, similar to falling asleep, he quotes “to be more than probable that the final act of dying is as simple and painless as going to sleep- and practically, we all die daily, without knowing it, when we go to sleep for the night.”[8] This pose was used as an attempt to blur the divide between life and death, maintaining the Victorian obsession with maintaining a person’s life after they have died.

The cultural tradition of Victorian death photography exhibits the psychological process of mourning for people of this era. Victorian’s are known for being obsessed with death, and the average Victorian funeral often involved “show and expense”[9]. Victorians staged photos with their deceased loved ones and even took photos with their “spirits” (ghost-esque figures added to typical portraits) in order to preserve the life and idea of their family member. This social norm helped to ease the grief many families felt but could not display, since expressions of grief were looked down upon because of strict social constructs for morning periods. These photos also encouraged those who looked at the photographs to empathize with the loss of the individual.[10] A post-mortem photograph was considered an homage to the deceased, and was intended to honor his or her life.[11]

Logistically, families would take the corpses of the deceased to dress and pose those corpses in ways those individuals would have in their lives. After the first post-mortem Victorian photograph was taken in 1841, it became essential for photographers to be trained in the art of post mortem photography.[12] Photographers shared tips and tricks to help with tasks such as moving the body, opening the eyes, and turning the eyeballs so the corpse appears to be looking in the proper direction. Images might also be manipulated after the photo was taken in order to paint pupils over the eyelids or make the subjects look more alive. Photographs at the time took 20 seconds of motionlessness in order to achieve a clear photograph, so deceased subjects were, in a way, ideal.

Post mortem photograph of a deceased child with her siblings

[13]

In some cases, subjects were dressed in clothing they had worn in their life or with objects that they once enjoyed, like a toy or blanket for a child. This helped to preserve the idea and personality of the individual in their life after their death. Later, as the trend of post-mortem photography began dissolve, photographs began to exhibit loved ones in mourning with the clearly deceased individual rather than the idea of attempting to preserve the life of the dead. Often, photographers would pose subjects as if they sleeping because it was less challenging. Presenting deceased subjects also preserved the idea of death being the individual’s “last sleep.” It was easier to cope with and understand that individual’s death if the individual’s eyes were closed than if they were open. People of the Victorian era hid the idea of death from these photographs, and instead represented the deceased as somewhere in between life and death.

The perception of photography throughout history has changed alongside advancements in cameras and their accessibility. As photos become less of a commodity, the perception of a single photo’s significance has changed. The current social state deems taking pictures of the dead as “disrespectful and crass, and it comes across as an invasion of privacy”[14] . However, post-mortem pictures in the Victorian era were a respectful and beautiful way of remembering the dead. Comparison of the context surrounding the shift in ethical acceptance of these photographs will explain how the perception of post-mortem photography has shifted.

Post-mortem portraiture in the late 1800s and early 1900s were a part of the grieving process. High mortality rates for the Victorians also contributed to the normalization of post-mortem portraits as the family could place their deceased within a domestic context to aid in grief.[15] These portraits were elaborately planned and deceased would take great care in crafting a picture that is both respectful and serene. The ethical debate surrounding post-mortem photography during this time was not as divisive as the images were “a reminder to loved ones and visitors alike that the deceased remained a presence in the world of the living”[16]. However, as time passed and the attitudes towards post-mortem photography became something ‘morbid’ and less acceptable to the public.

The transition to morbidity was spurred by advances in medicine and the commercialization of photography during the 1920s. As illness transitioned from a home setting to a hospital setting, death became more public. As medical teams became more involved in disease, the family became more removed from the processes of death and as treatments progressed, families became more uneasy with the thought of death. This involvement of a doctor made death seem less intimate and places it in a more scientific context that decreased the niche for post-mortem portraiture.[17] As technology continued to advance, photos became more accessible and more commercialized leading to the threat of widespread scrutiny if a picture were released. During this time, pictures of war began circulating and images of war contributed to the grim circumstances surrounding death. This shift in the perception of death caused people to abandon the practice of post-mortem portraiture, radically reducing the ethical acceptability of this previously common practice.[18]

Post mortem family portrait circa 1840s

[19]

After a long period without personal use for post-mortem photograph, photographs of the dying reemerged in the 1980s as publications of Kübler‐Ross’s On Death and Dying in 1969 and the hospice movement by Dame Cicely Saunders began circulating, reducing the fear and grim connotations behind death. As neonatal death became more frequent, there was an insurgence of families taking pictures of their children as a method of grieving.[20] Modern society’s view of the appropriateness of a picture has changed drastically throughout the past century, in many ways society has come full circle. However, as cell phones expand accessibility of pictures all over the world and social media spreads the reach of a photograph, the moral and ethical question of photographing the dead can shift even more moving forward.

 

 

[1] Christian, Kelly. “The Unpleasant Duty: An Introduction to Postmortem Photography.” The

Order of the Good Death. March 09, 2016. Accessed April 08, 2019. http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/unpleasant-duty-introduction-postmortem-photography.

[2] Ruby, Jay. Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America. Cambridge, MA: MIT,

[3] Hunter, Lyn. “A Victorian Obsession With Death Fetishistic Rituals Helped Survivors Cope

With Loss of Loved Ones.” Berkeleyan. April 05, 2000. Accessed April 08, 2019. https://www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2000/04/05/death.html.

[4] Ruby, Jay. Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America. Cambridge, MA: MIT,

  1. file:///Users/nicolefortin/Downloads/Dont_Move_-_A_Short_History_of_Post-Mort.pdf

[5] Hannavy, John. Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Photography. Vol. 1. London: Routledge,

  1. http://home.fa.utl.pt/~cfig/Anima%E7%E3o%20e%20Cinema/Fotografia/Enciclopedia%20of%20the%2019th%20Century%20Photography.pd

[6] Christian, Kelly. “The Unpleasant Duty: An Introduction to Postmortem Photography.” The

Order of the Good Death. March 09, 2016. Accessed April 08, 2019. http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/unpleasant-duty-introduction-postmortem-photography.

[7] Patawaran-Hickman, Andrea M., and Rachael Wintering. “Cultural Context and Post-Mortem

Photography–Honoring President Lincoln.” Visual Rhetoric UNC Charlotte. Accessed April 08, 2019. https://pages.uncc.edu/visualrhetoric/projects/still-photography/group-one/.

[8] Hunter, Lyn. “A Victorian Obsession With Death Fetishistic Rituals Helped Survivors Cope

With Loss of Loved Ones.” Berkeleyan. April 05, 2000. Accessed April 08, 2019. https://www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2000/04/05/death.html.

[9] Cadwallader, Jen. “Spirit Photography Victorian Culture of Mourning.” Modern Language

Studies 37, no. 2 (2008): 8-31. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40346959.

[10] Summersgill, Lauren. n.d. Family Expressions of Pain in Postmortem Portraiture. Studies in

Visual Arts and Communication: an international journal. Accessed April 8, 2019. http://journalonarts.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/SVACij-Vol2_No1_2015-Summersgill-Pain-and-Portrait.pdf.

[11] Borgo, Melania, Marta Licata, and Silvia Iorio. 2016. Post-Mortem Photography: The Edge

Where Life Meets Death? Italy: De Gruyter. https://www.degruyter.com/downloadpdf/j/hssr.2016.5.issue-2/hssr-2016-0016/hssr-2016-0016.pdf.

[12] Christian, Kelly. “The Unpleasant Duty: An Introduction to Postmortem Photography.” The

Order of the Good Death. March 09, 2016. Accessed April 08, 2019. http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/unpleasant-duty-introduction-postmortem-photography

[13] Bell, Bethan. “Taken from Life: The Unsettling Art of Death Photography.” BBC News. June 05, 2016. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-36389581.

[14] Mayne, Debby. “What Pictures You Should Never Post from a Funeral.” The Spruce,   TheSpruce, 29 Jan. 2019, www.thespruce.com/funeral-photo-etiquette-3571900.

[15] Hilliker, L. (2006). Letting Go While Holding On: Postmortem Photography as an Aid in the

Grieving Process. Illness, Crisis & Loss, 14(3), 245–269.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/105413730601400303

[16] NYGARD, P. & REILLY, C. (2003). The american family and the processing of death prior to

the 20th century. In C. D. Bryant & D. L. Peck Handbook of death & dying (pp. 567-574)

[17] Bown, Nicola. “Empty hands and precious pictures: post-mortem portrait photographs of children.” Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies 14.2 (2009): 8-24.

[18] Ruby, Jay. Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America. Cambridge, MA: MIT,

[19] “Post-Mortem Portraits.” The Dabbler. August 01, 2013. Accessed April 09, 2019. http://thedabbler.co.uk/2013/08/post-mortem-portraits/.

[20] Ennis, H. (2011). Death and digital photography. Cultural Studies Review, 17(1), 125-145.

https://search.proquest.com/docview/874498562?pq-origsite=summon

 

Nicole Fortin, Cee Cee Huffman, Kim Nguyen

How Photography Impacted the Civil War and Vice Versa

Having been invented just 20 years prior, photography changed the American Civil War as well as set a tone for how war was seen and reported on thereafter. Thanks to the development of new techniques, such as tintype and carte de visite, the medium of photography boomed in the years leading up to the conflict. These newly invented techniques, which produced small images on metal or glass, respectively, made mass production of photos possible, thus broadening the consumer base massively. Mass-production allowed for the vast distribution of the famous actors, celebrities, and political figures. In fact, President Abraham Lincoln even jokingly credited his re-election to Matthew Brady’s portrait of him.

Photography brought the gruesome scenes from the battlefield to forefront of the public’s attention. Because photos captured the objective reality of a battle’s aftermath, no longer could the public be ignorant to the nature of war. Exhibitions showcasing these photos in major cities such as New York City and Washington D.C., presented the intense images of war for the first time, which later led to the circulation of such images in popular publications like the New York Times.

“Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it,” wrote the New York Times on Oct. 20, 1862 about Brady’s New York exhibit a month after the Battle of Antietam.[1]

Over the years, thousands of soldiers had their photos taken and given as keepsakes for their families and providing the closest link to their loved ones while separated. While the memories of the countless men that died over the course of the war could be immortalized by such portraits, photos of the battlefield presented a vastly different image of the men on either side. We know that certain photographers manipulated after-battle scenes by moving corpses into particular positions for greater effect. One example in which historians suspect such a practice was employed is the famous photo below.

Dead Confederate Artillerymen, photographed by Alexander Gardner in front of Dunker Church after the Battle of Antietam, September 1862.[2]

 

This impactful image and others like it were circulated around the country in newspapers, in magazines, and on cards and used to further elucidate the graphic outcome of war. The occurrence of moving bodies or items into place for a photograph does not seem to have been commonplace, however one can assume that it certainly effected how the public responded to the event.

Memory as we understand it today is fickle and is subject to change fairly easily. Modern psychological research has shown that every time an individual recalls a memory it can be subjected to alteration, especially for emotional memories. Emotion can partially improve memory for events and details by enhancing consolidation. Quevedo and colleagues (2003) showed that when individuals were shown neutral and emotionally-arousing images, while being subjected to a stressor, individuals recalled the emotionally-arousing images more than the neutral images.[3]

Further research has found that, in society today, taking photos tend to help us remember details about a particular object/scene when asked about it later. Some of these conclusions are of course is predicated on the fact that the individual being asked to remember is also the one who took the photograph.[4] However, could these data have implications on how photos of major events in the Civil War and of those who fought during the conflict impacted how Americans remembered battles and the dead?

Alexander Gardner, Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, 1863

The advent of photography changed the way that people regarded the American Civil War as well as concepts like death, trauma, and memory. With photographs, the American people were provided access to the realistic, gory, and traumatic side of war. From here on, the realities of fighting could no longer be masked by paintings or other romanticized portrayals. These photographs were easily distributed to the masses through media, especially newspapers, and inspired awe, horror as well as backlash through realistic images of injured and dead soldiers and the gruesome battlefield. These images such as the one below, show dead, nameless soldiers forgotten in the war between North and South, symbolizing a “battle-worn and badly injured American nation,” and helped to create the Civil War identity of suffering.[5] Reactions to these images by the American people can be described as a “terrible fascination”. This expression captures an important quality of these gruesome images; they were shocking and horrifying, yet at the same time they were captivating in their awfulness.[6] Access to these type of atrocious images may have inspired those to combat war efforts, advocate for the end of the fighting and pursue a peaceful resolution.

Timothy O’Sullivan, A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, PA, 1863

https://library.artstor.org/#/asset/CARNEGIE_2700006

However, photography was not only used to depict the horror and death of the war, but also allowed for families to hold keepsakes of their loved ones on the battlefield and to commemorate those who had died. Photography represented a versatile artistic form, and in particular, portrait photography served as an affordable and reproducible way for soldiers to cement their image and name in order to be remembered by their families and the history books. They would send letters back home, writing about their fears and accomplishments, with portrait images of themselves to serve as sentimental mementos. Similarly, soldiers would carry portraits of family members, sweethearts, or national figures (such as President Lincoln) to inspire and motivate them through the brutality of fighting and help maintain their morality.[7]

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw

https://library.artstor.org/#/asset/ARTSTOR_103_41822000495448

Portrait of Lincoln, 1800s

https://library.artstor.org/#/asset/ARTSTOR_103_41822001761095

Portrait photography also allowed soldiers to establish identity and preserve a record of their service, which would transcend their painful and impersonal deaths. A single photograph could reflect and individual’s unique personality, social standing, intellect, etc. through tools such as pose, expression, and props. The ability of the, “body and of one’s own individualism crafted an identity, consequently elevating and christening photography as ‘an art of the person’”. The bleak future of war, violence hunger, and disease haunted soldiers prescribed a greater significance to their photographic portraits, because the photo would probably outlive the sitter. Death on the battlefield meant that many of the soldiers would not be given individual recognition, therefore soldiers took it upon themselves to preserve their own memory and transcend their own death (Tintype Stares). The ex-soldiers in these photographs reestablish their own personal identity and presumably could not easily be reduced to anonymous individuals (Shooting Soldiers).

The Civil War allowed a bruised America nation to claim a, “new, official respect for the nobility of all men,” and elevated the public and national respect for the individual soldier. Photography helped to self-memorialize these soldiers and demonstrated the importance of remembrance after death (Tintype Stares). However, photography also presented a more realistic portrayal of war and death, which both fascinated and terrified the American people. These type of images have numerous ethical implications, which we will explore next.

Although many people consider photographs of the civil war as keepsakes of their loved ones, the psychological perspective shows exactly how these photographs can affect people and how they remember such events. Thus, one of the most important aspects to consider about this war photography are the ethical principles which question whether or not photography of war is necessary and/or inconsiderate. One of the main arguments for the necessity of civil war photography stemmed from people who felt it was necessary to show the reality of war in order to open the public’s eyes to the cruelties of such war. Others however, questioned if these photographs were in fact legitimate, and if not, were concerned with how these photographs came to have been taken. One of the most famous photographers of the time, Mathew Brady, was known for staging his civil war photography photos in order to “stage a more dramatic image.”[8] Although civil war photography is said to be used for remembrance of war, and to show the harsh realities of it, one can only question what was actually real when presented with photos such as those taken by Mathew Brady. These photographs also then bring up the issues of how these bodies had to be treated in order to capture such dramatic images. They must have had to been moved, used as props, staged for a picture, and then finally discarded just for a photographer to be able to capture a “realistic” war moment.

The staging of these dead bodies for a photo-op have also brought up other questions as to the intentions behind such photographs. Photojournalism is said to be meant to document and remember tragedies in order to learn from them, but many disagree with the reasoning, claiming instead that photojournalism was created as a form of entertainment. One of the most disturbing and prominent examples of the entertainment aspect of photojournalism were the postcards and other mementos depicting the lynchings of Black Americans during the Civil War. These photographs were taken while Black Americans were killed and painted on ever popular postcards to send to others. Here, one individual states “Murder was celebrated in postcards. These were ‘I was there’ moments”.[9]

The body of George Meadows, lynched near the Pratt Mines in Jefferson County, Alabama, on January 15, 1889[10]

So, if civil war photojournalism was meant to commemorate and document the cruelties of the war, and was used in a respective manner, why did so many postcards of lynchings exist? Where they trying to send a message, was it for documentation, or was it simply for entertainment. As we have learned by now, photography of war can greatly affect the way that an event is remembered. Thus, many believe that these postcards were created to depict the Black American as a disposable tool within the war.

Some could argue that the meaning of photojournalism has itself changed and thus, makes civil war photography seem like a tool which was merely used with malignant intentions instead of documenting reality. In an NPR interview with Greg Marinovich, a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist, he talks about the experiences that photojournalists face in today’s fieldwork. “Just someone — especially a mother over a young child— and that look they give you as you come to photograph them, while you’re kind of apologizing about photographing…it’s disturbing”[11] 

Marinovich offers an insight into the real ethical issues surrounding photojournalism, especially in cases of war. It seems as though the journalist stands by and idely watches as havoc occurs all around them. Today, this is one of the most pressing ethical issues involved in photojournalism. However, during the time of the Civil War, this photography was viewed in a much different way. At the time of the war, photography supplies was difficult to acquire and use. Photographs were usually taken before or after a battle, but never during, as long exposure was required. So then, how has technology changed the ethics of photojournalism? Has it helped in speeding up the photography process in order to better respect those fighting, or has it merely created more ethical issues by allowing journalists to take photographs in the midst of it all?

Researchers today have begun to focus more on this change in ethics in regards to photojournalism, and how this can change the photojournalism as well. In a journal article by Chouliaraki, she explains how there has been a “ historical shift” of photojournalism, one that continues to drive towards an “increasingly explicit visualisation of war”. These changes have added more emphasis to the emotional aspect of the war rather than the physical aspect which Civil war photographers used as motivation for their documentation. Chouliaraki believes that this shift in photojournalism has itself changed the context of war from a war of national sovereignty to the “contemporary political context of humanitarian wars fought to alleviate suffering”. During the Civil War this photojournalism, in essence, occurred in a separate world, adjacent to the war, it seemed more like an afterthought or a veiled reality. Today however, photojournalism is an integrated part of this documentation, which also affects how we view photographic documentation and how we evaluate that which occurred in the era of the Civil War. Overall, many people believe that the means by which photojournalism occurs have affected the ethics of photojournalism itself. Whether this makes it more or less ethical, it is up for the individual to decide. In the end, the advent of photography changed the way wars were depicted and viewed by the public. The Civil War was one of the first times that photographs were used to depict the gruesome realities of battle, which helped to develop photojournalism in the future.

Photography helped lead to advances in photo-journalism in subsequent wars, and changed the way that battles were reported. Depicting the realities and horrors of wars helped to shift many people’s opinions towards more peaceful resolutions. In addition, photography developed over the years to include color photography and then towards advancements in film. For instance, during World War II, film was used to to show everyday life in the trenches, battle in motion, and even bombings.[12]

In the end, the advent of photography changed the way wars were depicted and viewed by the public. The Civil War was one of the first times that photographs were used to depict the gruesome realities of battle, which helped to develop photojournalism in the future.

 

 

By: Elizabeth Seipp, Mark White, Araceli  Arteaga

 

 

[1] Eric Niiler, “How Civil War Photography Changed War,” Seeker, November 27, 2012, , accessed April 07, 2019.

https://www.seeker.com/how-civil-war-photography-changed-war-1766077826.html.

 

[2] Gardner, Alexander, Copyright Claimant, and Publisher Brady’s National Photographic Portrait Galleries, Gardner, Alexander, photographer. Completely silenced! Dead Confederate artillery men, as they lay around their battery after the Battle of Antietam. Antietam Maryland United States, ca. 1862. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2012650227/.

 

[3] João Quevedo et al., “Differential Effects of Emotional Arousal in Short- and Long-Term Memory in Healthy Adults,” Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 79, no. 2 (2003): 132–35, https://doi.org/10.1016/S1074-7427(02)00034-5

 

[4] Roberto Cabeza et al., “Brain Activity during Episodic Retrieval of Autobiographical and Laboratory Events: An FMRI Study Using a Novel Photo Paradigm” 16, no. 9 (2004): 1583–94, https://doi.org/10.1162/0898929042568578

 

 

[5] Connor, J.T.H., and Michael G. Rhode. 2003. “Shooting Soldiers: Civil War Medical Images, Memory, and Identity in America.” Invisible Culture, no. 5 (Winter): 1-20. http://search.ebscohost.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asu&AN=59633672&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

 

[6] Godbey, Emily. 2012. “Terrible Fascination: Civil War Stereographs of the Dead.” History of Photography 36 (Summer): 265-274.

https://doi.org/10.1080/03087298.2012.672225

[7] Stankovic, Isadora. “Tintype Stares and Regal Airs.” Military Images 33, no. 4 (October 2015): 53–57. http://search.ebscohost.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mth&AN=109514171&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

 

[8] “Civil War Photography,” Civil War Saga, August 10, 2018, , accessed April 07, 2019, http://civilwarsaga.com/civil-war-photography/.

 

[9] Paul Sorene, “Lynching USA: Photos and Tales of When Blacks Were Always the Usual Suspects,” Flashbak, December 27, 2015, , accessed April 07, 2019, https://flashbak.com/lynching-usa-photos-and-tales-of-when-blacks-were-always-the-usual-suspects-27972/.

 

[10] L. Horgan, Jr., “George Meadows, “murderer & Rapist,” Lynched on Scene of His Last Alleged Crime. George Meadows Was Lynched at Pratt Mines (in Jefferson County) Alabama January 15 1889,” Wikimedia Commons, , accessed April 07, 2019, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lynching-1889.jpg.

 

[11] Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva, “Two War Photographers On Their Injuries, Ethics,” NPR, April 20, 2011, , accessed April 07, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2011/04/21/135513724/two-war-photographers-on-their-injuries-ethics.

 

[12] 30 Nov 2009. “Heart Pounding WWII Footage.” Military.com. Accessed April 07, 2019.

https://www.military.com/video/operations-and-strategy/second-world-war/heart-pounding-ww2-footage/663016035001.

 

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Brooks, Rebecca B. “Civil War Photography.” Civil War Saga. August 10, 2018. Accessed April 07, 2019. http://civilwarsaga.com/civil-war-photography/.

Cabeza, R., Prince, S. E., Daselaar, S. M., Greenberg, D. L., Budde, M., Dolcos, F., … Rubin, D. C. (2004). Brain Activity during Episodic Retrieval of Autobiographical and Laboratory Events: An fMRI Study using a Novel Photo Paradigm. 16(9), 1583–1594. https://doi.org/10.1162/0898929042568578

Chouliaraki, Lilie. “The Humanity of War: Iconic Photojournalism of the Battlefield, 1914–2012.” SAGE Journals. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1470357213484422?utm_source=summon&utm_medium=discovery-provider.

Connor, J.T.H., and Michael G. Rhode. 2003. “Shooting Soldiers: Civil War Medical Images, Memory, and Identity in America.” Invisible Culture, no. 5 (Winter): 1-20. http://search.ebscohost.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asu&AN=59633672&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Horgan, L., Jr. “George Meadows, “murderer & Rapist,” Lynched on Scene of His Last Alleged Crime. George Meadows Was Lynched at Pratt Mines (in Jefferson County) Alabama January 15 1889.” Wikimedia Commons. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lynching-1889.jpg.

Godbey, Emily. 2012. “Terrible Fascination: Civil War Stereographs of the Dead.” History of Photography 36 (Summer): 265-274. https://doi.org/10.1080/03087298.2012.672225

Marinovich, Greg, and Joao Silva. “Two War Photographers On Their Injuries, Ethics.” NPR. April 20, 2011. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2011/04/21/135513724/two-war-photographers-on-their-injuries-ethics.

Niiler, Eric. “How Civil War Photography Changed War.” Seeker. November 27, 2012. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://www.seeker.com/how-civil-war-photography-changed-war-1766077826.html.

“Photography That Changed the Way We View War.” CBS News. July 08, 2013. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/photography-that-changed-the-way-we-view-war/.

Sorene, Paul. “Lynching USA: Photos and Tales of When Blacks Were Always the Usual Suspects.” Flashbak. December 27, 2015. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://flashbak.com/lynching-usa-photos-and-tales-of-when-blacks-were-always-the-usual-suspects-27972/.

Stankovic, Isadora. “Tintype Stares and Regal Airs.” Military Images 33, no. 4 (October 2015): 53–57. http://search.ebscohost.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mth&AN=109514171&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Quevedo, J., Anna, M. K. S., Madruga, M., Lovato, I., de-Paris, F., Kapczinski, F., … Cahill, L. (2003). Differential effects of emotional arousal in short- and long-term memory in healthy adults. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 79(2), 132–135. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/S1074-7427(02)00034-5

30 Nov 2009. “Heart Pounding WWII Footage.” Military.com. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://www.military.com/video/operations-and-strategy/second-world-war/heart-pounding-ww2-footage/663016035001.

 

 

Post Mortem Photography

Culturally speaking, the tradition of post mortem art predated photography, was a common practice within wealthy groups of people. This was essentially thought of as maintaining a sense of life after death, in children and adults alike. Before the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839, post mortem portraits, generally presented at funerals, were limited to those wealthy enough to afford a painter[1]. After the daguerreotype became a common societal resource in 1841, this practice of maintaining life through photography became accessible to the general population, and even was representative of technological advantages in preserving bodies. By 1850, the cost of a daguerreotype was only twenty-five cents, making post mortem photographs a widespread cultural phenomenon.

Typically, these photographs were associated with mourning rituals and commonly involved deceased children or infants, due to the unfortunate childhood diseases at the time. The people of the Victorian time period are typically associated with an obsession of death. It was a huge part of their culture, as the average life expectancy was significantly lower due to poor hygiene, disease, and lack of prenatal care. A historian by the name of Gorer suggested, “It can have been a rare individual who, in the nineteenth century with its high mortality rate, had not witnessed at least one actual dying, as well as paying their respect to “beautiful corpses”; funerals were the occasion of the greatest display for [all] classes.”[2] This obsession was famously portrayed by Queen Victoria, as she mourned the loss of her husband for nearly four decades. She wore mourning attire and followed his daily routine as if he was still living. The reason why death was so apparent in Victorian society is as simple as the high mortality rate due to disease and labor conditions. Carol Christ, an expert on the Victorian fascination with death explains, “In London, in 1830, the average lifespan for middle to upper-class males was 44 years, 25 for tradesman and 22 for laborers. Fifty-seven of every 100 children in working class families were dead by five years of age.”[3] Mourning was also heavily ritualized, requiring women to mourn for years at a time. Mementos, including post mortem photography and locks of hair from the deceased were kept around the house, in memoriam of them.

Deceased Child
Photographer unknown, photo circa 1850

[4]

Though the practice of photographic the dead may be seen as strange in today’s society, it was accepted throughout the entirety of Victorian culture as a way to celebrate the person in life. Some were strategically posed in a lifelike manner, “sometimes the subject is seated upright on a chair or couch with its hands crossed in its lap and the eyes closed,”[5] and often placed by their loved ones as a sort of final family portrait. Objects, such as a child’s favorite toy are placed around the body, to create a more lifelike appearance. This was common when there were no other photographs of the deceased. According to historians Andrea M. Patawaran-Hickman and Rachael Wintering, these photographs were often the only ones ever taken of their loved one, meaning it was their only source of remembrance of that person, “As unusual as it may seem to us today, post-mortem photography used to have strong sentimental value to living relatives.  For some people, the deceased photograph of the individual may have been the only photograph ever taken. The photograph may have been one of the few tangible objects in which the family members could memorialize the life of the deceased.” Essentially the portrait was seen as a sense of preservation or immortality, the overwhelming thought of the time being that remembrance was of utmost importance for family members and future generations.

 

African American woman holding her deceased child Photographer: Jaynes, A. D.
Circa 1860-70

[6]

Another common way of photographic the deceased, which was more prevalent in adults and used frequently in the latter half of the nineteenth century, is the “last sleep” position. The departed were photographed in their beds or sofa, often immediately after passing. They were frequently covered by a sheet with pictures of the entire bodies being minimal, as the common practice was close ups. These photographs were less personal, “Rarely is the photograph personalized, i.e., designed to convey something about the deceased as an individual. Even when objects are present, they look more like standard props used to enhance the composition than the personal property of the deceased.”[7] The ideology behind photographing the deceased to look like they were sleeping is suggested by historian James Farrell that death itself is natural and gentle, similar to falling asleep, he quotes “to be more than probable that the final act of dying is as simple and painless as going to sleep- and practically, we all die daily, without knowing it, when we go to sleep for the night.”[8] This pose was used as an attempt to blur the divide between life and death, maintaining the Victorian obsession with maintaining a person’s life after they have died.

The cultural tradition of Victorian death photography exhibits the psychological process of mourning for people of this era. Victorian’s are known for being obsessed with death, and the average Victorian funeral often involved “show and expense”[9]. Victorians staged photos with their deceased loved ones and even took photos with their “spirits” (ghost-esque figures added to typical portraits) in order to preserve the life and idea of their family member. This social norm helped to ease the grief many families felt but could not display, since expressions of grief were looked down upon because of strict social constructs for morning periods. These photos also encouraged those who looked at the photographs to empathize with the loss of the individual.[10] A post-mortem photograph was considered an homage to the deceased, and was intended to honor his or her life.[11]

Logistically, families would take the corpses of the deceased to dress and pose those corpses in ways those individuals would have in their lives. After the first post-mortem Victorian photograph was taken in 1841, it became essential for photographers to be trained in the art of post mortem photography.[12] Photographers shared tips and tricks to help with tasks such as moving the body, opening the eyes, and turning the eyeballs so the corpse appears to be looking in the proper direction. Images might also be manipulated after the photo was taken in order to paint pupils over the eyelids or make the subjects look more alive. Photographs at the time took 20 seconds of motionlessness in order to achieve a clear photograph, so deceased subjects were, in a way, ideal.

Post mortem photograph of a deceased child with her siblings

[13]

In some cases, subjects were dressed in clothing they had worn in their life or with objects that they once enjoyed, like a toy or blanket for a child. This helped to preserve the idea and personality of the individual in their life after their death. Later, as the trend of post-mortem photography began dissolve, photographs began to exhibit loved ones in mourning with the clearly deceased individual rather than the idea of attempting to preserve the life of the dead. Often, photographers would pose subjects as if they sleeping because it was less challenging. Presenting deceased subjects also preserved the idea of death being the individual’s “last sleep.” It was easier to cope with and understand that individual’s death if the individual’s eyes were closed than if they were open. People of the Victorian era hid the idea of death from these photographs, and instead represented the deceased as somewhere in between life and death.

The perception of photography throughout history has changed alongside advancements in cameras and their accessibility. As photos become less of a commodity, the perception of a single photo’s significance has changed. The current social state deems taking pictures of the dead as “disrespectful and crass, and it comes across as an invasion of privacy”[14] . However, post-mortem pictures in the Victorian era were a respectful and beautiful way of remembering the dead. Comparison of the context surrounding the shift in ethical acceptance of these photographs will explain how the perception of post-mortem photography has shifted.

Post-mortem portraiture in the late 1800s and early 1900s were a part of the grieving process. High mortality rates for the Victorians also contributed to the normalization of post-mortem portraits as the family could place their deceased within a domestic context to aid in grief.[15] These portraits were elaborately planned and deceased would take great care in crafting a picture that is both respectful and serene. The ethical debate surrounding post-mortem photography during this time was not as divisive as the images were “a reminder to loved ones and visitors alike that the deceased remained a presence in the world of the living”[16]. However, as time passed and the attitudes towards post-mortem photography became something ‘morbid’ and less acceptable to the public.

The transition to morbidity was spurred by advances in medicine and the commercialization of photography during the 1920s. As illness transitioned from a home setting to a hospital setting, death became more public. As medical teams became more involved in disease, the family became more removed from the processes of death and as treatments progressed, families became more uneasy with the thought of death. This involvement of a doctor made death seem less intimate and places it in a more scientific context that decreased the niche for post-mortem portraiture.[17] As technology continued to advance, photos became more accessible and more commercialized leading to the threat of widespread scrutiny if a picture were released. During this time, pictures of war began circulating and images of war contributed to the grim circumstances surrounding death. This shift in the perception of death caused people to abandon the practice of post-mortem portraiture, radically reducing the ethical acceptability of this previously common practice.[18]

Post mortem family portrait circa 1840s

[19]

After a long period without personal use for post-mortem photograph, photographs of the dying reemerged in the 1980s as publications of Kübler‐Ross’s On Death and Dying in 1969 and the hospice movement by Dame Cicely Saunders began circulating, reducing the fear and grim connotations behind death. As neonatal death became more frequent, there was an insurgence of families taking pictures of their children as a method of grieving.[20] Modern society’s view of the appropriateness of a picture has changed drastically throughout the past century, in many ways society has come full circle. However, as cell phones expand accessibility of pictures all over the world and social media spreads the reach of a photograph, the moral and ethical question of photographing the dead can shift even more moving forward.

 

 

[1] Christian, Kelly. “The Unpleasant Duty: An Introduction to Postmortem Photography.” The

Order of the Good Death. March 09, 2016. Accessed April 08, 2019. http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/unpleasant-duty-introduction-postmortem-photography.

[2] Ruby, Jay. Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America. Cambridge, MA: MIT,

[3] Hunter, Lyn. “A Victorian Obsession With Death Fetishistic Rituals Helped Survivors Cope

With Loss of Loved Ones.” Berkeleyan. April 05, 2000. Accessed April 08, 2019. https://www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2000/04/05/death.html.

[4] Ruby, Jay. Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America. Cambridge, MA: MIT,

[5] Hannavy, John. Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Photography. Vol. 1. London: Routledge,

  1. http://home.fa.utl.pt/~cfig/Anima%E7%E3o%20e%20Cinema/Fotografia/Enciclopedia%20of%20the%2019th%20Century%20Photography.pd

[6] Christian, Kelly. “The Unpleasant Duty: An Introduction to Postmortem Photography.” The

Order of the Good Death. March 09, 2016. Accessed April 08, 2019. http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/unpleasant-duty-introduction-postmortem-photography.

[7] Patawaran-Hickman, Andrea M., and Rachael Wintering. “Cultural Context and Post-Mortem

Photography–Honoring President Lincoln.” Visual Rhetoric UNC Charlotte. Accessed April 08, 2019. https://pages.uncc.edu/visualrhetoric/projects/still-photography/group-one/.

[8] Hunter, Lyn. “A Victorian Obsession With Death Fetishistic Rituals Helped Survivors Cope

With Loss of Loved Ones.” Berkeleyan. April 05, 2000. Accessed April 08, 2019. https://www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2000/04/05/death.html.

[9] Cadwallader, Jen. “Spirit Photography Victorian Culture of Mourning.” Modern Language

Studies 37, no. 2 (2008): 8-31. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40346959.

[10] Summersgill, Lauren. n.d. Family Expressions of Pain in Postmortem Portraiture. Studies in

Visual Arts and Communication: an international journal. Accessed April 8, 2019. http://journalonarts.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/SVACij-Vol2_No1_2015-Summersgill-Pain-and-Portrait.pdf.

[11] Borgo, Melania, Marta Licata, and Silvia Iorio. 2016. Post-Mortem Photography: The Edge

Where Life Meets Death? Italy: De Gruyter. https://www.degruyter.com/downloadpdf/j/hssr.2016.5.issue-2/hssr-2016-0016/hssr-2016-0016.pdf.

[12] Christian, Kelly. “The Unpleasant Duty: An Introduction to Postmortem Photography.” The

Order of the Good Death. March 09, 2016. Accessed April 08, 2019. http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/unpleasant-duty-introduction-postmortem-photography

[13] Bell, Bethan. “Taken from Life: The Unsettling Art of Death Photography.” BBC News. June 05, 2016. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-36389581.

[14] Mayne, Debby. “What Pictures You Should Never Post from a Funeral.” The Spruce,   TheSpruce, 29 Jan. 2019, www.thespruce.com/funeral-photo-etiquette-3571900.

[15] Hilliker, L. (2006). Letting Go While Holding On: Postmortem Photography as an Aid in the

Grieving Process. Illness, Crisis & Loss, 14(3), 245–269.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/105413730601400303

[16] NYGARD, P. & REILLY, C. (2003). The american family and the processing of death prior to

the 20th century. In C. D. Bryant & D. L. Peck Handbook of death & dying (pp. 567-574)

[17] Bown, Nicola. “Empty hands and precious pictures: post-mortem portrait photographs of children.” Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies 14.2 (2009): 8-24.

[18] Ruby, Jay. Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America. Cambridge, MA: MIT,

[19] “Post-Mortem Portraits.” The Dabbler. August 01, 2013. Accessed April 09, 2019. http://thedabbler.co.uk/2013/08/post-mortem-portraits/.

[20] Ennis, H. (2011). Death and digital photography. Cultural Studies Review, 17(1), 125-145.

https://search.proquest.com/docview/874498562?pq-origsite=summon

 

Nicole Fortin, Cee Cee Huffman, Kim Nguyen

 

Visual and Photographic Representations of the Dead in Ancient Egypt

In this site, we will explore the following questions: What forms of visual art were a part of the funerary practice of Ancient Egypt? What scientific principles are followed to create the visually stunning pyramids and the mummification process? What do the funerary processes of Ancient Egypt imply about their culture and religious beliefs? What are the ethical dilemmas associated with the exhumation and photography of the deceased, specifically mummified Egyptians? Scientists, anthropologist, many others have been interested in these questions and mysteries for decades. Ancient Egyptians have captivated the globe with their visual representations of death, such as pyramids, mummies, hieroglyphs, and statues; which have been shared with the world through photojournalism.

Pyramids are the houses of dead pharaohs in Egyptian culture. Pyramids of Giza (The Great Pyramids), the last remaining of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, were built by three great rulers: pharaoh Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. The first and largest pyramid was built by Khufu, with Khafre the second, and Menkaure the smallest. In order to, construct such a massive monument, a permanent group of skilled workers, along with seasonal crews with approximately 2000 conscripted peasants composed the workforce. These crews are divided into small groups; each group of 20 men could carry 2.5 ton blocks from quarry to the construction site within 20 minutes. Each day, near 140 stones were hauled to the pyramid[1]. When almost finished, a smooth outer casing made of limestone was put on top of each pyramid. Mark Lehner, an Egyptologist who leads of Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA) and engineer David Goodman discovered that stones used in Khufu’s pyramid are from a horseshoe-shaped quarry located just south of the pyramid. On the other hand, the papyri found at Wadi al-Jarf said that the limestone used in the casing is from a quarry located at Turah and was shipped to Giza by boat. Apart from the materials, another engineer of AERA, Glen Dash, noted that Khufu’s pyramid is aligned to true north within one-tenth of a degree. He proposed that Ancient Egyptians may use a circumpolar star like Polaris and lines of rope to accomplish that[2].Astronomical knowledge also allowed Egyptian architects with alignment. Two tools were known to be used: the merkhet (the ‘instrument of knowing’) and the bay (a sighting tool). Workers lay out straight lines and right-angles with these tools, and orient sides and corners of structures according to the stars[3].

The Pyramids of Giza
https://img.purch.com/h/1400/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5saXZlc2NpZW5jZS5jb20vaW1hZ2VzL2kvMDAwLzA4NC8xMDEvb3JpZ2luYWwvZ2l6YS1weXJhbWlkcy5qcGc/MTQ2NTg2OTYyNA==

In order to raise the rocks to the top, ramps are necessary. Researchers have found traces of interior ramps in other pyramids, but no evidence are left in the pyramids of Giza. Also, the exterior ramps haven’t been found in any other pyramid yet due to the hardship of survival without protection. We will need more researches focusing on that to continue unveiling the myth. Beside basic physics, what shock the scientists was the new founding of the Great Pyramids’ ability to concentrate electromagnetic energy. Based on founding, Khufu’s pyramid can focus electric and magnetic energy into its chambers to spark higher levels of energy. Though the Ancient Egyptians may not be aware of this property, Researchers believe that if we could imitate the same effect on a smaller scale, new and more efficient sensors and solar cells could be developed. From all of this information and data, one can see the extensive lengths ancient Egyptians went to master the art of creating these visually gigantic building to house the dead. Showing how crucial death was in their culture.

Ancient Egyptians found the concept of death to be merely a part of one’s spiritual journey. To them, the physical body may have died, but they believed that the spirit of the person would continue and live on in the afterlife. A large portion of their culture centered around death as there were many gods related to it, many ceremonies were created about it, and even art was created to represent it. The ancient Egyptians did not create art for creative purposes or for just the fun of it, to them, visual art was highly significant. Therefore, art was primarily used for religious purposes, such as death and funerary practices[4]. Religion, death, and art were all intertwined in ancient Egyptian culture.

The reason why visual art was extremely meaningful to this culture is that art helped ancient Egyptians cope with death as it acted as the gateway between the living and the dead. For them, the afterlife was a mirror copy of our world. Therefore, to ensure that they live the same life in the afterworld ancient Egyptians took preparations by visually drawing out hieroglyphics. Pyramids contained tombs of the dead in them and in these tombs there were walls that were decorated with artistic visual hieroglyphics. Culturally it was believed that some of these hieroglyphics would become real in the afterlife where the spirits would go. Therefore, the hieroglyphics were seen as a part of the afterlife and a key component in funerary practices. For instance, hieroglyphics drawn on tomb walls would give a visual story of the deceased’s life letting them live the same life in the afterlife, gave a visual representation of a spell that would protect the deceased’s body and soul in the afterlife, would give the soul instructions as to how to navigate the afterlife, and much more[5].

Tutankhamun & Ankhsenamun
https://www.ancient.eu/Egyptian_Art/

Hieroglyphics were not the only visual art form that ancient Egyptians used to cope with death and navigate the afterlife. Pyramids also held the coffin of the dead and the coffin itself was a visual art piece that was intertwined with death and the afterlife. Many coffins have a beautifully detailed face of the deceased on it. As culturally it was believed that when one dies their spirit will need to reunite with its mummified body in order to reborn in the afterlife. It would be hard for a spirit to find its dead mummified body. Therefore, Egyptians created these detailed faces so that the spit can recognize its faces and go to their body so that one can be reborn into the afterlife[6]. Additionally, other parts of the coffin were glittered with powerful symbolic art that related to death. Coffins often had the scarab beetle on it as it represented death and rebirth[7]. Additionally, many coffins were painted with Egyptian Gods that would provide help and protection during the rebirth process and in the afterlife such as the Sun God Ra, the Goddess Isis, and Osiris who is the God of life, death, and rebirth, and many other ditties. Additionally, coffins had eyes drawn on them for the spirit to see the mortal world while they presided in the afterlife world[8].

Cartonnage of Nespanetjerenpere
https://artsandculture.google.com/usergallery/_wKyBYVUVPS4KQ

During the mummification process, the eyes are taken out and replaced with glass or stone eye, however these eyes allowed the spirit to see in the afterlife. For Egyptians, the mummified body is the home for this soul or spirit. To preserve the body, they extracted all moistures from the body so that the dry form can have a slower decaying rate. The process of mummification involves knowledge of human anatomy. First, all internal parts were removed because they may decay rapidly. All the organs except for the heart were pulled out carefully, with least destruction of the physical appearance. The organs then were put in special boxes called canopic jars and buried with the mummy. Another practice was to treat and wrap the organs to put them into the body again. Next step is to remove all moisture from the body. They used natron to dry out the body and clean them after the process is completed. Materials like linen and false eyes are added to the sunken parts of the dried out body to make it more life-like. The last step was the wrapping process. Linen used in wrapping may be as long as hundreds of yards. To protect the wrap-up body from a mishap, priests write prayers on some linen strips and placed a mask on the body before putting on an extra layer of bandages. Some warm resin were also added in the process. After the final cloth was wrapped, the mummy was completed[9].

Scientist use CT scans to examine the mummy
https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s–bOGuUXai–/c_scale,dpr_2.0,f_auto,fl_progressive,q_80,w_800/18vq3h3jvgzahjpg.jpg

To study the mummies without damaging its physical properties, scientists utilize Radiology,mass spectrometry, and DNA analysis. With advancing radiology: X-ray imaging, CT scans, and MRI scans, researchers not only discover what’s inside the wraps, but also the health problems of the person. For example, coronary arteriosclerotic disease has been around in China for over two millennia; Ötzi the Iceman suffered a fatal blow to the head; ancient Egyptians suffered from atherosclerosis[10]. With mass spectrometry, scientists analyzed hairs of the body to reveal the substance usage. We have believed that mummies don’t have any DNA left, but a new study proves that we are wrong. The study was led by Johannes Krause, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. A similar DNA study has been done in 2010, but its techniques were not mature enough to distinguish between ancient and modern DNA. The new study was a sequential success. And it revealed that Egyptian DNA had been consistent even though different political powers conquered the empire[11].

Scientists, such as bio-archaeologists, argue that the benefits of research outweigh the benefits of leaving the mummies untouched in the ground. To these scientists leaving these mummies in the ground is the “forensic equivalent of book burning, the willful ruin of knowledge[12].” In this field of study, bones play a key role in research. The bones allow scientists to examine how a person died and allow them to look into how diseases have affected the human population over time. For example, skeletons found a mass grave due to the Black Death are being examined to look into why the Black Death affected certain people. It was previously believed that the Black Death affected anyone and everyone regardless of who they were. However, the skeletons show certain non-specific markers among all those in the sample. These include signs of malnourishment and illness, such as lines on teeth (which are linked to enamel formation stopping) and excess bone growth on the tibia. This could have caused infection in the soft tissue, which in turn leads to a weakened immune system. This new research can help us understand how epidemics can affect the current population[13].

Without the exhuming of mummies from ancient Egypt little would be known about how that population lived, worshiped, and died. The tombs of pharaohs allow scientists and anthropologists to research the funerary practices of ancient Egyptians, and also the religion of these peoples. The tombs give insight into the fact that the Egyptians viewed the afterlife as an extension of the world they lived in. They also allow scientists to see how effective the mummification process was.

On the other side of the argument, people fight for the return of exhumed bodies based on moral ideas. For example, many Native Americans have been fighting for years to have the bones of their ancestors removed from lab storage and returned to their resting places. To these people, the archeologists are “grave robbing scientists”[14]. Although Native Americans are still fighting for the return of their ancestors, federal legislation has mandated the return of the skeletons. However, many believe the return is being slowed because the scientists are more concerned about research than morality. Native Americans are not the only peoples who have a moral dilemma when it comes to skeletal research. Many groups, such as Native Hawaiians, believe that the bones of the dead are a tie to the spiritual world, and therefore they should be left alone. Also, Christians believe that once the dead are “laid to rest” they should remain untouched. Many theologians claim that the bible has little evidence that Jesus Christ showed care for the body after physical death. However, the Church believes that burial is final, and were opposed to cremation until well into the 19th century. The Church fights for the reburial of historic skeletons. The pushback against this is that future generations would not be able to perform research on the skeletons without excavating the bodies again[15].

One group who does not want the mummified bodies are the spirits themselves. The ancient Egyptians did not want their mummified body to follow them in afterlife. Instead they had statues created in their likeness and placed in their tombs. As they believed that their statue body would replace their human body in the afterlife and where their spirit would aside.

Diorite statue of King Cephren
http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth200/body/egypt_body.htm

Visually these statues were created with death in mind. Many of these statues were created in a static pose with a neutral, peaceful face intended to give the spirit a relax body and face in the afterlife, essentially letting them rest in peace. However, there were more visual aspects of the statutes. The statues have symbols carved on them for people to visually see the type of life the person lived, their status in society, more deities to protect their spirit, and much more[16].

Objects in a tomb other than the coffin or statute can tell the kind of status the deceased lived. The wealthy and noble individuals tombs were much more visually elaborate. For instance, there would be hoards of worldly possessions in tombs that would travel with the spirit into the afterlife or an array of artistic hieroglyphics covering the walls in the tombs of the noble and wealthy. This allows one to visually see how death in ancient Egypt did not change the social status of the deceased. After death, ancient Egyptians would continue on with their life but just in the afterlife instead as long as they had the proper funerary procedures. However, their afterlife could be disturbed if someone disrespects their tombs or body such as taking photos of their mummified remains[17].

There are a multitude of ethical problem tied to photographs taken of exhumed mummies. Photojournalism is a powerful tool in today’s world. Photojournalism tells the stories in a snapshot and can bring a unique perspective to the story. However, photojournalism has a very complicated relationship with ethics. Photojournalists have a responsibility to share the news with the public, but they have to weigh the costs and benefits of publishing the photos they are capturing. They know that so many people are forever going to have their photos ingrained in their minds, and so they have to make the decision if the photo adds the public good or if it is too violent for the general public[18].When considering the ethics of photojournalism we must ask ourselves  do the “photographers have the right to photograph individuals in distress.[19]” This can stem to photographing the deceased.

In the United States taking photographs of the deceased is considered disrespectful. In fact, from 1991 to 2009 there was a ban on photographing flag-draped caskets returning from the Gulf War conflict. However, there still are few photographs of these caskets. On the other hand, foreign soldiers and civilians are often photographed being killed or shown dead all the time. Are their lives and deaths less worthy of respect, when they are fighting for what they believe is right? This issues also stems into the photography of mummified corpses.

Photography of these corpses is important for the preservation of history, but should we abandon the idea that photographing the dead is immoral just to freeze that moment in time[20]?  Siegfried Kracauer claims that “in a photograph, a person’s history is buried, as if under a layer of snow” because a picture only captures a moment rather than the entire story. This claim can be used to support the argument that the dead should not be photographed. Photographs can be used as a way to spread a moment to the general public, but it ignores the history and story behind the photo. By taking photos of the dead we take their lives and condense it into a single moment. This can be seen as a sign of disrespect for what the person has been through. People’s lives are a collection of many moments, and to take that away and turn it into one moment sends a message that the rest of their life is not as important as the moment that was captured. Of course, this moment is forever saved in history, but it erases the person’s history. In the case of mummified Egyptians, photographs turn their story into a sensation and popular culture obsession. This can be potentially damaging because it destroys the original culture and turns it [the culture] into something that it is not[21].

Death was an immense part of ancient Egyptian culture as it leads them to create stunning pyramids, dozens of funerary practices, and a complex process to preserve one’s body. In ancient Egypt, death was extremely visual as much of the death practices revolved around creating timeless objects such as hieroglyphics, sarcophaguses, and statues that were intended to be immortal like the spirits and Gods. Ancient Egyptians have captivated the globe with their visual representations of death, such as pyramids, mummies, hieroglyphs, and statues; which have been shared with the world through photojournalism.

References

Bennington-Castro, Joseph. “The Science of Mummies.” Io9. December 16, 2015. Accessed April 06, 2019. https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-science-of-mummies-993265763.

De Lancie. Death Is Not the End: Ancient Egyptian Religion and Art. Accessed April 06, 2019. http://www.writing.ucsb.edu/sites/secure.lsit.ucsb.edu.writ.d7/files/sitefiles/publications/2010_De Lancie.pdf.

“Documenting Tragedy: The Ethics Of Photojournalism.” NPR. December 06, 2012. Accessed April 06, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2012/12/06/166666261/documenting-tragedy-the-ethics-of-photojournalism.

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[1]Naraelle Hohensee, “Ancient Mediterranean: 3500 B.C.E.-300 C.E.,” Khan Academy, , accessed April 06, 2019, https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/ancient-mediterranean-ap/ancient-egypt-ap/a/old-kingdom-the-great-pyramids-of-giza?modal=1.

[2] Owen Jarus, “How Were the Egyptian Pyramids Built?” LiveScience, June 14, 2016, , accessed April 06, 2019, https://www.livescience.com/32616-how-were-the-egyptian-pyramids-built-.html.

[3] Dr Ian Shaw, “History – Ancient History in Depth: Building the Great Pyramid,” BBC, February 17, 2011, , accessed April 06, 2019, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians/great_pyramid_01.shtml.

[4] “Egyptian Art and the Afterlife – Google Arts & Culture,” Google, , accessed April 06, 2019, https://artsandculture.google.com/usergallery/PwKCm8ZaUj0BLA.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Symbols of the Afterlife,” The Eternal Life of the Ancient Egyptians – Symbols of the Afterlife, , accessed April 06, 2019, http://faculty.montgomerycollege.edu/gyouth/FP_examples/student_examples/corrie_inman/symbols.html.

[8] “Wendy Warlick: Ancient Egyptian Coffins and Mummies – Google Arts & Culture,” Google, , accessed April 06, 2019, https://artsandculture.google.com/usergallery/_wKyBYVUVPS4KQ.

[9] “Egyptian Mummies,” Smithsonian Institution, , accessed April 06, 2019, https://www.si.edu/spotlight/ancient-egypt/mummies.

[10] Joseph Bennington-Castro, “The Science of Mummies,” Io9, December 16, 2015, , accessed April 06, 2019, https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-science-of-mummies-993265763.

[11] Lizzie WadeMay et al., “Scientists Thought Ancient Egyptian Mummies Didn’t Have Any DNA Left. They Were Wrong,” Science, July 26, 2017, , accessed April 06, 2019, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/05/scientists-thought-ancient-egyptian-mummies-didn-t-have-any-dna-left-they-were-wrong.

[12] “When Is It Okay To Dig Up The Dead?” National Geographic, April 07, 2016, , accessed April 06, 2019, https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160407-archaeology-religion-repatriation-bones-skeletons/.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] De Lancie, Death Is Not the End: Ancient Egyptian Religion and Art, , accessed April 06, 2019, http://www.writing.ucsb.edu/sites/secure.lsit.ucsb.edu.writ.d7/files/sitefiles/publications/2010_De Lancie.pdf.

[17] Joshua J. Mark, “Ancient Egyptian Art,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, May 26, 2017, , accessed April 06, 2019, https://www.ancient.eu/Egyptian_Art/.

[18] “Documenting Tragedy: The Ethics Of Photojournalism,” NPR, December 06, 2012, , accessed April 06, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2012/12/06/166666261/documenting-tragedy-the-ethics-of-photojournalism.

[19] “Documenting Tragedy: The Ethics Of Photojournalism,” NPR, December 06, 2012, , accessed April 06, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2012/12/06/166666261/documenting-tragedy-the-ethics-of-photojournalism.

[20] Sarah Sentilles, “When We See Photographs of Some Dead Bodies and Not Others,” The New York Times, August 14, 2018, , accessed April 06, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/14/magazine/media-bodies-censorship.html.

[21] Kylie Thomas, “Exhuming Apartheid: Photography, Disappearance and Return,” Cahiers Détudes Africaines, no. 230 (2018): , accessed April 06, 2019, doi:10.4000/etudesafricaines.22209.

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