The Victorian Era was the period in Britain from 1837 until 1901, aptly named for the reign of Queen Victoria. It was a time of self-confidence, prosperity, and peace. It was also a time when things that we perceive as creepy today were all too common, one of which was post-mortem photography.
Photographing the dead as if they were alive was as common then as prom photography is today. It may seem bizarre by today's standards, but it's a fascinating time in history that you have to explore to truly appreciate.
Here are 21 prime examples of post-mortem photography from the era. As interesting as it is, get ready to be freaked out a bit.
1. The idea wasn't to shock anyone – this was a common way to honor a deceased loved one.
2. The idea was to make the dead look alive again, and photographers were very skilled in it, as you can see.
3. Most photos featured both living and deceased subjects (Good luck telling which is which).
4. A common tactic was to show the deceased as they were in life, such as sitting with a favorite pet.
5. This honors a deceased daughter and her love for her doll collection.
6. Trying to make the deceased appear to be sleeping was common.
7. Special props were used to make the deceased "stand" with living siblings.
8. Often, a body part of the dead was used as a self-prop.
9. Some scenes were a little less subtle, with a person behind a curtain holding up the head of the deceased.
10. Furniture was used in a way that allowed photographers to use unseen props.
11. Appearing "life-like" is an understatement.
12. This is the low end of the subtle scale, as the girl is clearly held on someone's lap for the photo.
13. Photographers often drew pupils on the photo to amplify the life-like effect.
14. Sometimes, the family just didn't want the deceased to appear alive, but the photo was important as a memento nonetheless.
15. This flower girl was as beautiful in death as she was in life.
16. The pain is clear for the living members in these photos, but it was an important step toward moving on.
17. Try to imagine how tough this was. Photography at the time was painstakingly slow, not a quick click.
18. The deceased subject is sometimes clearer in these photos, which is because the living subjects were often moving slightly.
19. It's hard to believe some of these are not of bright-eyed, living children.
20. It was common to use makeup on the deceased to brighten a pale skin tone.
21. It was considered a success if no one could tell which subject was the deceased one.
There is not much to say after looking at those. It is bizarre by today's standards, of course, but the powerful message can still be felt. Most of these photos are of deceased children, which only amplifies the bravery that the parents showed in memorializing their lost loved ones in this way. May the memory of these lost souls remain forever.