The idea of photographing the dead is as old as photography itself. For the most part, early death photographs were commissioned or taken by relatives of the deceased and preserved in the home as part of the family photograph collection. Once thought inappropriate and macabre, today these photographs are considered beneficial in dealing with bereavement. Photography and Death reveals the beauty, meaning and significance of images once dismissed as disturbing, perverted or grotesque by placing them within the context of changing cultural attitudes towards death and loss. Excluding images of death through war, violence or natural disasters, Audrey Linkman concentrates on photographs of natural death within the family. She identifies the range of death-related photographs that were produced in both Europe and North America, and charts changes in their stylistic treatment through the decades. The author also examines how this subject is handled by contemporary art photographers.
Photography and Death will interest photographic, art and social historians as well as practitioners in the field of bereavement therapy, or those who seek to analyse the images of long-lost ancestors who gaze back from the pages of their family photograph albums.
Audrey Linkman is Visual Resources Manager at the Arts Faculty, The Open University. She specializes in the social history of nineteenth-century British photography and is the author of The Victorians: Photographic Portraits (1993).