Suspension of grief (and disbelief): the evolution of postmortem photography in nineteenth century America




Paris, Elizabeth

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American postmortem photography emerged in the nineteenth century as a product of the sentimental grieving process, ubiquitous presence of death, and a society immersed in rapidly changing cultural and technological advances. Despite most of the images' lack of documented provenance, well-documented shifts in nineteenth century attitudes on death and mourning provide parallels for the changes in postmortem photography over the course of its popularity. The objective of this thesis is to examine this genre's most confounding characteristics to demonstrate its significance as a product for and shaped by American culture. By demonstrating the changes in postmortem photographs in conjunction with and resulting from shifting cultural attitudes toward death, the genre gains more potential for future scholarly discourse.


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Civil War, Daguerreotype, Memorial, Nineteenth Century, Photography, Postmortem



Art and Art History