We used to wait

Last night I read a couple of Chapters from Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, which got me thinking about the relationship between Photography and Death. He talks briefly about the presence of Death in part one, chapter 5: He who is photographed;

“Nothing would be funnier (if one were not its passive victim, its plastron, as Sade would say) than the photographers’ contortions to produce effects that are “lifelike”: wretched notions: they make me pose in front of my paintbrushes, they take me outdoors (more “alive” than indoors), put me in front of a staircase because a group of children is playing behind me, they notice a bench and immediately (what a windfall!) make me sit down on it. As if the (terrified) Photographer must exert himself to the utmost to keep the Photograph from becoming Death.”

I found this sentence quite interesting, putting a different spin on the ideas behind the thought processes and reasoning of the Photographic pose. And then I thought about the photograph as a memory; I see it that in today’s society they are here to remind us that we’re living and, after we’ve passed, that we’ve lived.

I couldn’t get these things out of my head, and I thought maybe it would make for a good dissertation subject, so I made some notes to read through and research today. I came across post-mortem Photography in the Victorian era and the above Photographs by Walter Schels. He captures his subjects just before and just after death, and accompanies his photographs with a piece of writing about the persons view on death and the happenings around their particular death. It’s a subject that is seen as taboo today, because we fear death so much in our society, and its interesting to compare it to the Victorian post-mortem Photographs because they were so common after the Daguerrotype was invented (mainly because it was the only way of preserving the persons memory without getting a professional painter involved).

I’ve always feared the death of the people I love, and also of myself, but I like to think that it’s taken more of a back seat since my Dad died. I suppose all of this thinking about the subject of death isn’t a coincidence as I was reminded yesterday that it was the anniversary of his accident, and soon it’ll be the anniversary of his death.

“For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.”  ~William Penn

~ by shohpie on June 13, 2011.

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