The Psychological Benefits of Post-Mortem Photography

Death photography was, at one time, a popular way of preserving a memory of a loved one who has passed. This video discusses the history of it, and suggests that it can still play a role in modern society as a way to cope with grief. 

As certain as it is, dealing with death is arguably the most difficult challenge in one's life. This video, from SciShow Psych, talks about post-mortem photography in it's historic context, but also discusses how it can still be used to help people through the grieving process.

Gone are the days of posing the body of a recently deceased loved one as if they were still alive in order to get a family photo. However, some photographers do specialize in grief photography — the most notable specific genre being that of still-born photography. It goes without saying that the grieving parents of these children don't have any photos of the infant that they so looked forward to meeting, so hiring a professional photographer to capture some memory is indeed appreciated by a few. And, as the video explains, psychologists believe that these photos serve as effective tools in coping with grief.

While the Victorian era photos tend to send shivers down the spines of many, I think that there could still be a place for post-mortem photography of older relatives in the modern world. Done tastefully, I can see how grieving families could benefit from it. 

Do any of our readers specialize in grief photography? What are you thoughts on extending it to older relatives, like times gone by?

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michael butler's picture

Mike as a former Coroner, trained in forensic photography and required to take photographs in different views of every death I ever attended I can tell you that in the vast majority of community deaths images of the recently deceased are not at all pretty. The situation can be different with an expected death in a hospice or nursing home but people who die unexpectedly are seldom found in photogenic circumstances. By all means, if your grandmother passes away lying peacefully in bed, having been cared for by staff and appearing as if she is sleeping, great. But the vast majority of deaths outside a facility, especially after some time has passed, are not scenes to be captured for later viewing.

Instead, take images of your family and loved ones while they are alive and still look like themselves and the person you knew and loved. In my opinion. grief photography is an unpleasant, unnatural and ghoulish occupation preying on the raw emotions of the recently bereaved.

Luke Adams's picture

While I agree with your overall sentiment, I don’t think he is advocating for professional photos of the deceased in the same circumstances as they were found to be deceased. I would think the normal application would be photos of the deceased person after the mortician has done their work.