Posted by: mahoganycloud | December 6, 2012

The Murder Scene


The Post-mortem photography never ceases to amaze those who happen to gaze upon them. The sensations that they elicit is not only sadness, but also trepidation. Though eery to many of the modern age who studies them, they were accepted as a normal and quite popular practice. The picture here attracts one’s attention to not only the dead family, but also to the injuries that the family seems to have. They are propped on the bed as if they are simply sleeping together, but what we seem to be looking is probably a murder scene, or probably a murder-suicide. Is this a premature form of capturing the murder scene in pictures, which will be quite common today?

Also, I am quite curious about when this practice of photographing the dead in this way ceased? Do we still have a practice in Western modern society that is similar?


  1. I wasat a Lituanian funeral a few years ago. The take picturesat the wake and burial. The practice started when families were separated when they began to immigrate to the U.S. It was strange for me witness, but a practice for them, so that relatives over seas could “be” there.

    • That’s true, I guess–about taking pictures at the wake and burial. We do that here to, but I just find it so interesting that they set up the photo scene in such a “normal” an homey manner. I mean, they have so much access to the bodies to do with as they please. But now, bodies go to the morgue, to the funeral home, and then to the resting place. I can only imagine if such a practice was still present here.

  2. Perhaps what is most disturbing is how the viewer is made blatantly aware of the subjects’ fate. Today, we have makeup artists and all sorts of postmortem practices applied to the deceased so that their manner of death is concealed. In fact, our culture today makes an effort to remove all traces of death, so that at an open-casket ceremony it would seem perfectly plausible that the corpse is merely sleeping. Here in this photograph, we also could mistake the deceased for sleepers, but the wounds on the man and woman–who we presume to be the mother and father–are obvious, and in addition to having been dressed in their Sunday best, all of them have been arranged into awkward, unnatural resting positions. Overall, the effect is unnerving and prompts further questions about how and why they were killed.

  3. What I find intersting in this image, is the way everyone is dressed. It looks as if they were going out somewhere, but were killed. I am wondering if they were killed together in the same room or if they were gathered together and put in one bed. This image makes me wonder a lot of things even though it is scary to look at. If they were arranged they put the father (I assume he is the father) in the middle. This shows that despite one being dead, a male still remains the one in power.

  4. It’s also strange to us as modern viewers because it seems to be taken in their home. It is becoming increasingly rare for us to die in our homes – unless we are murdered – but in that case the body is left in its last position, and the photograph is taken for evidence. I am inclined not to read this picture as a form of evidence. The bodies are obviously posed and dressed in nicer clothes – but the bruises and injuries on their faces are left open to the viewer. This creates an odd contrast between their apparently peaceful postures and the violence of their deaths. The addition of the children along with their parents makes the image even more eerie; it makes a strange family portrait.

  5. Briefly– I am very curious about the intended audience for this particular photograph. I feel as though I’m most familiar with post-mortem images that indicate that the person pictured is a child, or if not child-aged, someone who is the child of someone alive. I suppose this could be the case here… but if we do assume (always dangerous) that the adults are indeed the mother and father of the children pictured, which would mean that this entire immediate family was deceased. I suppose it could go to a brother or sister, but it’s feels odd. And oddly complete. It does appear more like documentation than sentiment, but then there’s the introduction of the bed, and the peaceable posturing.
    I do agree that these photographs are odd because currently death is disguised in American culture, but I think the continual presence of open-casket funerals may do the same thing as these. And, if death is disguised in present-day culture, there’s that consistent argument that violence in glorified. I get the impression that Victorians neither glorified or shied away from death– I personally tend to think of that as a recent luxury.
    In Emma’s post she mentions the idea of “passing as alive” and I think that’s always relevant in the production of post-mortem documentation– Post-mortem photography is perhaps the most historically direct form of the uncanny I’m aware of and I think I’ll expand on that elsewhere.

  6. This is one picture that makes me question the truth quality of the scene. Obviously someone propped them up in a selected fashion and order but I can’t help wonder if they were dressed in formal attire for a certain occasion, before their death or after. The father is placed in the center of the photograph, commanding the most attention, while one child is placed under the arm of the mother, and his other two children laying together on his other side. I also find it interesting how one can draw up various conclusions from this photo and explore a possible story behind their deaths. One one might notice that the brunt of the injuries are on the parents’ faces, could they have tried in vain to protect their children from their inevitable death? As mentioned previously, the fact that they have an almost ethereal sleep-like appearance as they rest on the bed solidifies their eternal resting that is both eerie and fascinating to me.

  7. I am of eastern European heritage and my mother (while she was living) took photos of the dead. I live in Canada. It is probably something that I will continue to do even though my husband thinks it rather creepy. I admit that it is creepy but I see value in documenting our family, even in death.

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