Photography + Ephemera

October 6, 2010

Photography and memorial ephemera are intrinsically linked and the use of photography within memorial ephemera only grew as the process became more cost effective.

As for the printing and the artwork itself, this piece shows the development of the neoclassical symbolism that had by now (early 20th century) become strongly linked to the mourning industry. Used here to surround the photograph, the symbolism is highly embellished, with the dove, columns, flowers, Christian symbols all being framed by a black curtain that is seeming to be pulled back.

Artwork like this had always been linked with Christianity, but this had become increasingly more prominent, with standard artwork being used for the majority of Christian denominations.Neoclassical symbolism had transcended Protestant and Catholic in the mainstream, with generic bible quotations and symbolism.

Further Reading on Memorial Ephemera

George V Memorial Card

Ephemera: 1915 Australian Memorial Card

Memorial Card and Hairwork

Queen Victoria Funeral Programme

The Graphic: Funeral of Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria Funeral Card

Parnell Mourning Ephemera

Prince Albert Memorial Ephemera

A Look Back on Ephemera

Ah, those wonderful people at The Burns Archive have been featured on Manhattan News and below is a look at the video:

If you’re in New York and haven’t been along to the exhibition yet, free up some time and go immediately. If you’d like to send along your thoughts of the exhibit, then please let me know or post in the comments:

Burns Archive Memorial Photographs on Exhibit

New York Through Nov 29, 2010

Memento Mori: The Birth & Resurrection of Postmortem Photography
Merchants’ House Museum, 29 East Fourth Street, New York, NY 10003

September 9, through Monday, November 29 2010

Furthermore, Sleeping Beauty III Memorial Photography: The Children is a book being released by The Burns Archive, a new website has been created and details are as follows:

Sleeping Beauty III Memorial Photography: The Children enhances the history of postmortem photography and is intended as a reference for bereavement organizations, photographers, hospital staff and parents engaged in renewing the practice of memorial photography. This compilation of over 125 photographs documents images from photography’s earliest era (1840s) up to the present. The historic images are classic representations of American and European memorial cultural traditions. The modern photographs document contemporary practices of bereavement and memorialization.

Link > The Burns Archive
Link > Sleeping Beauty III

Rather than write a myriad of superlatives about how magnificent the Burns Archive is, I’d rather let you all discover it for yourselves, with their wonderful new post about photography and mourning dress.

>> Link / The Burns Archive: Dressed to Distress

Of course, there are my little dissertations to view on mourning dress (without the photography):

17th Century Mourning Dress Part 1
17th Century Mourning Dress Part 2
18th Century Mourning Dress Part 1
18th Century Mourning Dress Part 2
19th Century Mourning Dress Part 1
19th Century Mourning Dress Part 2

The Burns Archive Blog

July 25, 2010

One of the most important inventions of modern times is the photograph. Its impact on human history has finally opened the book to primary sources of evidence, presenting moments in time from bygone eras.

This is why the Burns Archive is just so important. Now, at their blog, they are updating regularly with items from the Stanley Burns’ Archive, with some of the finest examples of photography in existence.

The memorial photography is particularly interesting, as there are some very intimate views of the household in mourning and post-mortem photography.

I highly urge you to go visit regularly and be transported into former times:

>> The Burns Archive Blog

Early Photograph Found?

June 29, 2010

Here is an interesting find that, if accurate, will change a lot of perspectives on the history of photography.

From the Peabody Essex Museum, a Parisian Street from 1839 has been found, what is most remarkable is that the earliest photography dates from around 1840.

>> Follow this link at The Boston Globe for more!

Thanks to Sarah Nehama for the tip!

William Mumler, Spirit PhotographyFrom 1861 to the 1930s, spirit photography was a phenomena that relates to spiritualism and the social focus upon science. William Mumler’s discovery of a double exposed plate showing a head in the background began a new public awareness in spiritualism that reflected upon a social movement towards science from religion.

Grieving families sought solace in the hope of reuniting with a loved one, and with the advancements in science (such as a move away from creationism to evolution and technical advancement), spiritualism became a reality for some. Though frauds, cartes de visite with the “spirit” in shot are rare and directly related to the concept of mourning.

Further Reading:

> Photography in Jewellery Part 1
> Photography in Jewellery Part 2
> Photography in Jewellery Part 3
> Photography in Jewellery Part 4
> Photography in Jewellery Part 5
> Photography in Jewellery Part 6
> Photography in Jewellery Part 7

Photography, Part 6

May 20, 2010

These brooches are shown on behalf of Larry West (Tokens of Affection and Regard) . It should be noted that photo-jewellery pricing ranged from $5-$10 (US), with more for tinting and elaborate mounting (as opposed to $50-$250+ for a portrait miniature).

When looking at the civil war ambrotype of the Union soldier (c.1862), this price difference becomes quite a lot more realistic for the middle-class. The cheaper price point, coupled with the relatively new technology of the photograph and the social issues of the time only aided the growth of mourning jewellery during the 19th century. As for the piece itself, West surmises that it Is ‘probably a print of an earlier mourning image, as the photograph is surrounded by a thin black border’.

Judging from the style of the piece itself, brooch is within the bracket of third quarter 19th century style. The mid 19th century brooch also shown is a fine piece with exceptional wide-weave hairwork border, held between the leaf motif. Pieces combining hairwork as part of the jewellery as well as the photograph itself are difficult to find, as opposed to jewels with the hairwork and photograph inside.

Further Reading:

> Photography in Jewellery Part 1
> Photography in Jewellery Part 2
> Photography in Jewellery Part 3
> Photography in Jewellery Part 4
> Photography in Jewellery Part 5
> Photography in Jewellery Part 6
> Photography in Jewellery Part 7

Photography, Part 5

May 13, 2010

As print became affordable and accessible, items such as the Carte de visite and cabinet card were available with variations upon the post-mortem photograph. ‘Madonna’ images of the mother holding the deceased child, couples holding photographs of the deceased and more public cards showing the body of a famous person are all variations on the post-mortem photograph. One of the more interesting is the pre-mortem photograph, with the subject shown before death. This was an admittance of the mortality of the terminally ill by the family and these images are not prolific in the same way as their post-mortem counterparts. As soon as photography could be adopted as a viable means for mass print and accommodate customisation, memorial ephemera adopted the technology quickly. These often were images of the person in life, rather than in death, but the industry was large enough to adapt the photograph technology for different memorial purposes. Beginning in the 1860s, mourning (or funeral) cards are still used with personalised imagery today.

By the 1890s, post-mortem photography (as well as the mourning industry in general) was on the decline. Symbolism, such as the coffin, had replaced the body as the symbol of death and societies were distancing themselves from the image of death. Mortality rates were changing and the fact of death was evolving. Now, photographs were more inclined to show funeral arrangements or even the funeral itself. Perhaps the more melancholy imagery was that of the child’s empty shoes next to a memorial (though this was used during the height of post-mortem imagery as well). Post-mortem photography was kept until the early 20th century, yet more common were photographs of the deceased (while alive) used in memorials. The practice itself is a direct reflection of the family and incredibly personal to the family unit. Unlike jewellery or adhering to any form of mourning fashion to publicise the effect of mourning, the photograph held the memory of the person and should be seen as a powerful symbol of affection.

Further Reading:

> Photography in Jewellery Part 1
> Photography in Jewellery Part 2
> Photography in Jewellery Part 3
> Photography in Jewellery Part 4
> Photography in Jewellery Part 5
> Photography in Jewellery Part 6
> Photography in Jewellery Part 7

Photography, Part 4

May 6, 2010

The precedent for post-mortem photography verges on the ancient, with funeral and post-mortem imagery linked to early cultural developed. For the modern era, there was a renewed interest in deathbed paintings in the 1620s and 30s, with mourning as a social signifier entering the modern psyche. Post-mortem photography, however, began as quickly as the technology was adapted. In the United States, families were also changing from the community aspect to the smaller, family unit. During the 18th century, these Puritan communities would feel the loss of a single person as a loss to the community, whereas this had been restricted to the immediate family in the 19th century. Due to this and the greater freedom of the daguerreotype process in the United States (due to lack of patent control), post-mortem photography was widely prolific, more so than in Europe.

Early photographs were crude and the subjects were often not prepared correctly, but in a short period of time, the process was refined to studios and travelling photographers. As the style developed, the subjects became positioned and personal items of the deceased (or symbols of love) were placed around the body. Children are often the primary focus of post-mortem photographs and a great effort was made to make the subject look alive. For the photographer, making the subject look ‘asleep’ was one of the easier methods to do this, though studios specialised in ways to prepare the body for photography. These may be retainers to hold the bodies in position, massage to the limbs, rouging of the cheeks, ‘affixing the mouth closed with a forked stick placed under the chin and against the breastbone, closing the eyes with coins, and preserving the features by placing ice under the body.’ Different concepts were used in this method, but the primary focus was the same; to hold on to the memory.

‘…parents evidently desired to represent their dead children in all kinds of attitudes in order to express their intense grief and their passionate desire to make their children survive in memory and in art, to exalt the children’s innocence, charm, and beauty.’ Phillipe Ariès

Further Reading:

> Photography in Jewellery Part 1
> Photography in Jewellery Part 2
> Photography in Jewellery Part 3
> Photography in Jewellery Part 4
> Photography in Jewellery Part 5
> Photography in Jewellery Part 6
> Photography in Jewellery Part 7

Old techniques, such as the silhouette, which were fast and cost effective, became quickly obsolete. Silhouettes in rings, pendants and lockets were popular in the early 19th century, but only began to fill a necessary void in a middle / lower class demographic demand. Miniature paintings, such as the eye portrait were treasured for their personalised nature and that they could be worn close to the person without making a display of the jewellery. The photograph in jewellery took these precedents and built upon the desire in the market for cost effective and accurate memorial pieces.

Often, hairwork was outsourced and the provided hair wasn’t that of the loved one at all in a piece of jewellery, with a photograph, the wearer could guarantee its authenticity and hold it as dear as an eye portrait could ever have been. Lockets especially were highly in demand because of this, causing wide variation in the styles of lockets available. Lockets were produced that could hold up to as many as eight photographs and ingenious techniques of construction aided this process.

Hairwork was often placed opposite the photograph of a loved one inside a locket, keeping the hair and the face always next to the heart. Not only used for mourning, these pieces were strongly sentimental, given to a loved one (either family or after a formal declaration of marriage), when a partner was away from the other for some time. Because the locket could be reused over time, pieces that may have been dedicated to hairwork have since been replaced with photographs, often in a short period of time. Demand and necessity (such as the placement of smaller photgraphs) led to different styles of locket or brooch (many of which can be seen in the Lockets and Pendants or Brooches sections). The locket is one of the strongest surviving pieces of mourning jewellery, many other forms of jewellery with photography (apart from brooches) are contradictions to the rule, but lockets still are used today. Bold lockets with ‘in memory of’ or other mourning sentiment are still marketable pieces for sellers who take out the previous owner’s memento and start the piece anew.

Lockets as sentimental gifts (old and new) are also incredibly popular, with people giving photographs inside lockets as a common practice. The photograph has made sentimentality in jewellery a greatly personal enterprise, both fuelling the other’s necessity.

Further Reading:

> Photography in Jewellery Part 1
> Photography in Jewellery Part 2
> Photography in Jewellery Part 3
> Photography in Jewellery Part 4
> Photography in Jewellery Part 5
> Photography in Jewellery Part 6
> Photography in Jewellery Part 7

As quickly as the technology spread, jewellery and fashion were fast to adopt photography. The wearing of a photograph became linked to mainstream fashion; its use as a signifier of social status as well as a personal device of memorialising a loved was a revolution in the concept of memorial / sentimental jewellery. Worn on the outside or in, closed or open, photography and jewellery began a relationship that still continues to this day.

Replacing the miniature as a cost effective means of holding on to the memory of a loved one, lockets and pendants adapted to accommodate photography quickly. Following on from the 1830s, jewellery was becoming smaller and more adaptable for modern fashion, lockets and pendants weren’t as obvious in costume as they had previously been. By the 1840s to 60s, small lockets were accommodating photography and adapting styles as fashion permitted. Wearing the picture of a loved one over the heart was one of the most powerful symbols of affection between people; it was a secretive function and transcended any particular fashionable style.

In brooches, photographs began replace hair mementos, or often have hair on one side with a swivel to a photograph on the reverse (1850s and 60s). Even rings were not exempt from photographs, with signet rings opening to an image underneath, and eventually mourning pieces of the 1930s and 40s would be of Bakelite with photographs placed on the top. By the 1880s, the ubiquitous nature of the photograph was starting to replace traditional items of sentimentality, notably hairwork was declining in use as well as miniature portraits had almost become obsolete for common use by the 1860s.

Further Reading:

> Photography in Jewellery Part 1
> Photography in Jewellery Part 2
> Photography in Jewellery Part 3
> Photography in Jewellery Part 4
> Photography in Jewellery Part 5
> Photography in Jewellery Part 6
> Photography in Jewellery Part 7

Photography, Part 1

April 12, 2010

PhotographyThe photograph is arguably the most important innovation in history for memorialising a loved one. No invention captures the essence of a person with such precision and manifests the memory in a physical object. The person is remembered for how they were, without any form of detriment or corruption to the visage. As a catalyst for change, the mourning industry quickly adapted to the new invention which would change all that had come before. Holmes called the photograph a “mirror with a memory” and that at its very concept is the nature of the photograph*

From its Daguerre’s announcement of the Daguerreotype in 1839, the photograph was welcomed as an expensive, yet viable process that became accessible around the world. The process made a direct positive image, rather than creating from a negative, providing increased detail, but with long periods of exposure (sometimes up to twenty minutes). Daguerreotypes flourished in the United States, as the patent was not controlled by Louis Daguerre, unlike in the United Kingdom where control was tighter. This led to the higher proliferation of memorial photography, which will be discussed later in this section. Though considered inferior to hand painted imagery by the higher classes, studios and travelling photographers established quickly, with portraiture being the most popular to facilitate the growing industry.

The ambrotype, popular from the 1850s to 1880s, involved creating a wet collodion negative, pressing this against a dark background and bleaching the negative (if necessary). The final image was a negative which appeared as a positive when placed on a dark background. They were sometimes underexposed that the image could be seen from all angles, but lacked the detail of the daguerreotype. The process of creating these was much cheaper than the Daguerreotype (and lacked its shiny surface, which led to its increased popularity).

Tintypes, popular from the 1850s to 1940s, evolved from the ambrotype process and were presented on a metal surface, rather than glass or paper. These were fast to produce and led to their supplanting the ambrotype process.

Large scale photography was used by the latter 19th century, as multiple images were developed from one negative. Items such as the carte de visite (developed in 1865) and mourning card flourished from this period due to this technological advancement.

All these styles relate to memorial photography and the various uses of the form. Memorial photography relates to post-mortem photography, the use of a photograph for it to be considered memorial, uses in jewellery and ephemera and the desire to capture the spirit. Photography became a viable option from the 1860s, as the faster technologies and cheap price aided an enormous industry that could transcend social barriers unlike any other memorial device.

Further Reading:

> Photography in Jewellery Part 1
> Photography in Jewellery Part 2
> Photography in Jewellery Part 3
> Photography in Jewellery Part 4
> Photography in Jewellery Part 5
> Photography in Jewellery Part 6
> Photography in Jewellery Part 7

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