Posted by: marycib | November 17, 2010

Motherhood and Death

Viewing Cameron’s photographs of “dead” children was somewhat disturbing, especially considering that posing a deceased child was a custom during the Victorian era. Since Cameron was not actually photographing dead children, it was interesting to think about the meaning of the photographs. Plates 4, 5, and 6, seem to emphasize the relationship between mother and child, especially when viewing the woman and child as Madonna and Child. The connection between sleep and death generates the idea that death is not actually final. Instead, “The literature and the postmortem photography of the period often linked sleep with death: it was a way of denying death” (Mavor 55). Plates 4 and 5 are especially suggestive of the Pietà image of Madonna holding Jesus after he was crucified. In Plate 4, the woman is looking up, as if toward heaven, indicating that she is praying about the death of her child. While the child appears similar in both photographs, the woman’s facial expression is much different. In Plate 5, the woman appears sad and almost puzzled as if she cannot fully grasp the meaning of her child’s death. The placement of mother and child in Plate 6 accentuates the connection between a mother and her child by having their bodies appear to be a continuation of each other. The mother is also looking away from her child as if to suggest that she has lost faith now that her child has died. In these photographs, Cameron connects death with the bond between mother and child.


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