June 12, 2006

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: For families overcome by grief and pain, the idea of photographing their baby may not immediately occur to them. Offering gentle and beautiful photography and videography services in a compassionate and sensitive manner is the heart of this organization. The soft, gentle heirloom photographs of these beautiful babies are an important part of the healing process. (NSFTSDTDB)

Not Safe For the Squeamish Due to Dead Babies. (Learned my lesson!

  • Too busy to dig for "soft, gentle heirloom photographs" of dead babies? The site helpfully organizes them by state.
  • When I worked at a funeral home, there was one grieving mom who took her dead infant daughter out of the coffin and held her through the entire service. It was too much to watch.
  • People have been taking pictures of people, alive and dead, ever since there were cameras. Visual memory seems to get stranger the more I consider it. Not everyone seems to have an ability to recall how a familiar face actually looks. Or perhaps I should say not an equal ability. Which always seems a bit odd to me, considering how easily most folk can spot a familiar face in a crowd, sometimes even after the passage of many years when they've not had so much a glimpse of the other.
  • =as a glimpse
  • Brings to mind something about trucks & pitchforks. I can't remember exactly what though....
  • People have been taking pictures of people, alive and dead, ever since there were cameras. True enough. But how strange to accidentally discover so much in one place! Something poignant about the internet here... A few clicks of a mouse and suddenly I'm surrounded by other people's insurmountable tragedy, yet cut off entirely from a context to share with them. Just pictures, and the ghoulish desire to keep looking...
  • Monkeys are innately curious creatures, especially about other monkeys. Alive or dead. Also, most of us know it could be us there, and how to deal with this predicament is a life-long concern for many. Gleaned from the Wit and Wisdom of Mother Goose: A cat can look at a king. At least that seems to be the position held by cats. R U perchance a cat?
  • Ask that with great respect, thinking of Mad Orange Jack, the 15-pound chaser of bears.
  • I do know someone that has photos of their stillborn daughter. They also have locks of hair and footprints, because what else are you left with when you haven't had a chance to exist together? Of course, having them publicly available online is pretty disturbing.
  • To us moderns, perhaps death seems more disturbing generally than in former and less complex times, where a body was laid out in bed or in the parlour. Our attitudes about grief differ wildly from culture to culture, and from period to period, but there's no universal standard. And even within a culture, families and individuals differ greatly in how they cope with such things. But this Dead Victorian infant's picture doesn't seem to me demeaning to the dead child. And I suppose, had we visited the family, we might well see this sitting on a parlour table. Where, hopefully, it would afford a degree of comfort, however slight, to the parents.
  • So very sad. I'm glad I waited to get home before I looked at these.
  • About 15 years ago, co-worker of mine had a stillborn daughter. After a couple weeks of personal leave, she brought pictures to work. I'm not trying to be disrespectful here because she was deeply grieving, and she probably thought this was a good way to talk about it with others, get it out in the open, and avoid the uncomfortable bit where co-workers have no idea what to say. Still, I think she should have *asked* if I wanted to see the photos. Instead, she whipped them out, and said, "Here's my daughter!" Had she asked, I would have come up with something to gently express that I did not want to see something so personal. Talk about uncomfortable. The image of that baby in her arms still haunts me - so thank you for the express warnings this time, Nickdanger.
  • To us moderns, perhaps death seems more disturbing generally than in former and less complex times, where a body was laid out in bed or in the parlour. Yes indeed. I've often thought about this: our culture seems to have attempted to sideline death as much as possible, as though we were trying to take it out of human experience altogether. Which I suppose we are, despite there being 0 possibility for ever doing so. It's interesting how the internet has allowed images of death to become suddenly much more accessible. With only a few keystrokes I know I can (and indeed have) call up incredibly graphic photographs that only a decade ago I would have had no idea where to find. Suddenly these images of *real* death (as opposed to the reenactments we've been obsessed with for some time) are an indelible part of our experience.
  • But this Dead Victorian infant's picture doesn't seem to me demeaning to the dead child. And I suppose, had we visited the family, we might well see this sitting on a parlour table. Having a picture on the parlour table somehow doesn't seem as ... tacky as posting on the intarwebs. There's something almost commercial feeling about this, as if the emotions were being diluted. Never mind me, I'm just superstitious about pictures. I always feel sad when I find a lost picture on the floor in a public place, or see one torn up in the trash--as if that person were not loved enough. It's not that I might not have a picture like that taken, but I wouldn't put it up for public consumption and discussion.
  • Um, my mom does this. She's also a Doula. We really don't talk much... And yes, it really fucking creeps me out .
  • Nickdanger - that's true, even with skin diseases and the like - yuck, but, wow. Bluehorse - have you seen Found Magazine? As for photos of the dead, there was that bit in The Others where she finds the photo of the dead servants. I read recently that in Japan, or was it South Korea, its quite common to snap an open casket with a cameraphone.
  • BlueHorse, I suppose most North Americans are accustomed to regarding their dead in a context free of commercial involvement. So, is this site offering valuable information for bereaved parents or making a push to employ more professional photographers? muteboy, believe it's widely accepted now that Japanese voyeurism has been given a huge boost by the cameraphone. Does taking pictures of the dead in Japanese culture fall into this category?
  • FWIW the site itself is not-for-profit. Which changed my initial impression pretty radically once I realized that.
  • I read recently that in Japan, or was it South Korea, its quite common to snap an open casket with a cameraphone. At my grandmother's funeral (recent), my stupid cousins not only decided to blatantly take pics of GMa in the casket, but hung their very young children over her dead body and said, "Say good-bye to great-gramma!" Those idiots thought their kids were crying because they missed great-gramma. Hello? CORPSE!
  • Shiva creates and destroys, yea? That said, this thread is very cool. Let's make it, like, our secret. )) Mr. Danger. *pulls trenchcoat tight, disappears into the fog*
  • Nah, that’d kill me.
  • When my brother died, he was brought back to his house to spend the last night in his room before the funeral, and we were all given a chance to go in and spend some time with him. His friends went in and smoked a few joints, my dad spent the night in the room with him, and I was just completely weirded out by the whole situation. I did go in and say my goodbyes, but it was seriously like talking to myself. It felt redundant and I just felt silly. It probably doesn't help that I don't believe in any form of afterlife -- but I didn't think my family did either. Anyway, last month I was back there for the inquest and my stepmother had made an album of photos of my brother from birth to death. We were laughing and reminiscing, as one does, and then we got to the last pages which were photos of my brother in his casket in his room. I have never heard a conversation cut off so instantaneously. Just...well. Not my thing. If you have had the chance to be with someone when they're a living, breathing person, why on earth would you want to remind yourself of what they look like as a corpse? It's a different situation to the linked photos, obviously.
  • We just had my grandmother's funerals. There were two, since she had lived in Connecticut for the last decade, but had spent her first eighty years in South Carolina. I'm not a funeral person (that statement probably sounds weird, but my mother will go to just about any funeral she hears about), but I really wanted to be with my family at this time.
    I looked at the corpse at the first funeral, but not at the second. Some loser cousin of mine told me that if I wanted to know what I would look like in my fifties, I should look at my mother, and that if I wondered how I'd look in my nineties, I should look in the casket. He wasn't trying to be hurtful or funny. That was the sad part.
    I didn't look in the casket at the second funeral, because I didn't find it helpful the first time. It just reinforced the notion that my grandmother no longer existed. Looking at the empty shell did nothing for me.
    I don't have anything against other people looking at the corpses of loved ones, or taking pictures, it's just not my thing, and I have no interest in partaking in either activity.
  • ... why on earth would you want to remind yourself of what they look like as a corpse? Think it stems from an impulse to regard the physical apparatus, the shell of skin enclosing whatever material stuff lies inside it, as the self. Hard to take pictures of someone's personality. (Except, for those who can, with the mind's eye.) So perhaps many folk have to settle for what seems tangible to their own senses of touch and sight and so on. /but what do I really know of how others meditate on such things?
  • Indeed. I myself never thought the person was "in there" and so found it sort of pointless, but others doubtless disagree.
  • I've often heard that dogs have a need of some sort to see the bodies of their companions. That if their fellow dog dies elsewhere and they does not see the body they can become agitated, anxious and waiting for their friend's return. But if they are allowed to see the corpse, to sniff it, they accept the loss for what it is. I have no idea if this is true.
  • I completely understand the desire for pictures of your child, even just after death. I know it's not anything like the same thing, but I found myself in tears lately when I realised I had no recent photos of my cat who died just over two years ago. I can't imagine what it would be like to not have photos of your baby. But it's the images of the people holding the baby, especially unclothed, that were disturbing. Corpses aren't disturbing at all - they just look like people sleeping. But touching the dead - they are so cold. Just once touching a dead cat tail (on my other cat - he survived being run over, but his tail didn't), I felt instantly something was wrong when touching cold flesh. I would think that the grief would be too overwhelming, to hold that little body that should be so warm, only to feel it cold. Though maybe it's cathartic - maybe it takes away the sense of disbelief grief can bring, by confronting it. Whereas so much of our culture wants to lock us away from death, which is not healthy. I'm glad I could see my grandfather in his coffin. I had been frightened, but as soon as I looked at him, I wasn't - but I also remember feeling that he could just wake up any minute. Maybe if I had touched him, I would have understood better.
  • Can I just say that I'm really happy with the way this thread turned out? When I originally posted it I was afraid that monkeys were going to think I was mocking these people's pain and jump all over me. Thanks for once again bolstering my faith in humanity, Mofites!
  • Dang! We missed our chance to pile on Nicky! Jb, you have it right--I don't think I could ever cuddle a cold baby. That would be just awful. If I had to pick a dead infant up--in the wake of a natural disaster, perhaps--I could do that. But I think I would totally have to divorce myself from any emotion to do it.
  • No, a dingo ate those babies.
  • The Victorian pictures hark back to a time when most people didn't have cameras, and so they may not have taken pictures of their loved ones (sorry) while alive. Creating a visual memory under those circumstances seems fitting. But, I agree that posting modern mourning photos on the internet just seems to have more to do with the parents than the babies.