Demonstration of technical and visual skills

The choice of subject, apart from personal interest, was based on a debate in a photography forum where one of the participants assured that the photography of the dead was a practice that was limited to the sphere of the particular and was only related to memory.  On an divulgative level, postmortem photography is associated with 19th century practices, and if we add to this the consideration of death in contemporary society, it is easy to attribute the opinion of the aforementioned person to one of these two factors. In addition to studying the question of death in the domestic realm – which today is relegated to the strictest intimacy – I was interested in the expression of death in the artistic realm where it now has an almost provocative character. The intention of the essay was to test this transition between the two fields.

I was also very interested in the editorial issue related to the writing and publication of articles and all the formalities related to the necessary permissions for the publication of third party content. In relation to the photos published in the article, I managed the permissions with all the authors, obtaining permission from almost all of them, with the exception of Theresa Frare (negative answer), Phillip Toledano (no answer) and AA Bronson (no answer). I had access to a photographic archive of my city where 140,000 historical photographs are housed (Pacheco Archive), but the procedures for obtaining the images and managing the permits required 3 months of waiting. Finally, I requested publication permits from the Burns Archive and the entity that manages the rights of the Galician photographer Virxilio Vieitez, but in both cases they demanded financial compensation. The essay includes a photograph taken in 2019 by a private individual who wishes to remain anonymous.

Quality of outcome

Although I consider that the initial objective of the essay has been achieved, I believe that the text has an enunciative character and an important part of it is dedicated to the description of the situation of the genre throughout history. Beyond the initial warning that the approach to postmortem photography must be made from a broader perspective than the consideration of it as a narrative of memory, no original thesis is proposed beyond the categorization of gazes.

 Although I have had at my disposal enough bibliography, I have tried not to overload the text with quotations and texts of difficult compression, which facilitates its reading in the divulgative media. I believe that it is important when writing to take into account its potential audience and I considered that it could be read by someone who perhaps lacked the adequate context; I believe that through the examples that are included, the article can help to understand the current situation of postmortem photography.

Demostration of Creativity

I do not consider that my writing contributes any new vision on the studied subject, at most it could help to demystify a little the negative vision that the reader can have of the gender. The subject seems to me to be very broad and both the space and time available prevent further development. The text has formal similarities with other texts that I have read, especially with some essays included in the book “THE DISCLOSED IMAGE. Photographic practices in illness, death and mourning” edited by Montse Morcate and Rebeca Pardo: historical introduction, current situation, analysis of the issue under study by means of examples and a brief conclusion. Although it may not be appropriate for an academic text, I found it interesting to present my examples at an increasing level of intensity and perhaps end with a conclusion that is more poetic than conceptual.

I know that I still have many authors to mention and perhaps I could put a little more emphasis on the perinatal postmortem photography that is currently practiced for therapeutic purposes, but I found it more interesting to focus attention on pointing out how the disappearance of postmortem photography in the private realm caused an increase in proposals in the contemporary artistic field.

Context

The two fundamental texts for this work are the Linkman monograph “Photography and Death” and the collection of essays in Spanish edited by Prado and Morcate. I could not access one of Jay Ruby’s fundamental books “Secure the Shadow,” although the text is frequently cited in other texts. I include below some online references consulted:

 

Andres Serrano – Series – The Morgue (no date). Available at: https://andresserrano.org/series/the-morgue  (Accessed: 8 October 2019).

Cookie in Her Casket, New York City, Nov. 15 – Sammlung – Entdecken – Fotomuseum Winterthur (no date). Available at: https://www.fotomuseum.ch/de/explore/collection/23373_cookie_in_her_casket_new_york_city_nov_15  (Accessed: 9 October 2019).

DEATH & MEMORIAL (no date). Available at: https://www.burnsarchive.com/death—memorial.html  (Accessed: 12 October 2019).

Death, Immortalized: Victorian Post-Mortem Photography (2019) Clara Barton Museum. Available at: http://www.clarabartonmuseum.org/post-mortem-photography/  (Accessed: 13 October 2019).

EXPLODING INTO LIFE — EUGENE RICHARDS (no date) EUGENE RICHARDS. Available at: https://eugenerichards.com/exploding-into-life  (Accessed: 8 October 2019).

FEW COMFORTS OR SURPRISES — EUGENE RICHARDS (no date) EUGENE RICHARDS. Available at: https://eugenerichards.com/few-comforts-or-surprises/2mforqu74hzxm71tvkujpg3q3kpdj7  (Accessed: 8 October 2019).

Hannah Wilke: Photographic Work, HWCALA (no date). Available at: http://www.hannahwilke.com/id5.html  (Accessed: 8 October 2019).

Krass Clement – Photographer (no date). Available at: http://www.krassclement.com/books/veddoden.html  (Accessed: 9 October 2019).

Lim, M. A. (no date) Mortality in Photography: Examining the Death of Susan Sontag | Treehouse. Available at: https://tembusu.nus.edu.sg/treehouse/2015/04/mortality-in-photography-examining-the-death-of-susan-sontag/  (Accessed: 10 October 2019).

Maeve Berry Photography: Incandescence (no date). Available at: https://www.maeveberry.com/gallery_137233.html  (Accessed: 9 October 2019).

Marketa Luskacova (no date). Available at: http://www.marketaluskacova.com/  (Accessed: 8 October 2019).

Meghan (2016) NSFW: The Grotesque Morgue Photography of Jeffrey Silverthorne, CVLT Nation. Available at: https://cvltnation.com/grotesque-morgue-photography-jeffrey-silverthorne/  (Accessed: 8 October 2019).

Museums, B. (2012) The secular funeral of John Shaw by Humphrey Spender | Bolton Worktown, Bolton Worktown. Available at: https://boltonworktown.co.uk/photograph/the-secular-funeral-of-john-shaw-11  (Accessed: 8 October 2019).

Nisbet, B. R. (1981) ‘DEATH IN THE WEST’, The New York Times, 22 February. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/1981/02/22/books/death-in-the-west.html  (Accessed: 20 October 2019).

Noch mal leben (no date) Fotografie Walter Schels. Available at: http://www.walterschels.com/portfolios/portraits/album/8  (Accessed: 8 October 2019).

Rudolf Schäfer – Der ewige Schlaf. Visages de morts. The endless sleep., Kellner Verlag, 1989, Hamburg – josef chladek (no date) josefchladek.com. Available at: https://josefchladek.com/book/rudolf_schafer_-_der_ewige_schlaf_visages_de_morts_the_endless_sleep  (Accessed: 8 October 2019).

The Guardian (2008) ‘Life Before Death at the Wellcome Collection’, 1 April. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/society/gallery/2008/mar/31/lifebeforedeath  (Accessed: 13 October 2019).

The Thanatos Archive-Early Post-Mortem and Mourning Photography (no date) The Thanatos Archive / Early Post Mortem and Mourning Photography. Available at: https://thanatos.net/preview/  (Accessed: 10 October 2019).

Time (no date) ‘Photographing The Dead’. Available at: https://time.com/photographing-the-dead/  (Accessed: 8 October 2019).

Welcome to the official Hans Danuser website (no date). Available at: http://www.hans-danuser.ch/  (Accessed: 8 October 2019).