memento mori 2

Admittedly, the death of a dog is not equivalent to the loss of a child or other family member. Yet it does present a similar challenge to integrate the reality of death into a life that, in its totality, is hopefully creative and life-affirming. Somehow we must all live on after loss and eventually deal with our own mortality in positive ways.  

Memento mori is a Latin phrase which translates as “Remember your mortality”, “Remember you must die” or “Remember you will die.” The phrase has a tradition in art, dating back to antiquity, identifying a genre of artistic work which reminds people of our inevitable earthly fates.

In the relatively modern art form of photography, memento mori often refers to a peculiar Victorian practice, originated in the earliest years of photography, of postmortem portraiture. The invention of the daguerreotype in 1839 made portraiture—once only available to those rich enough to commission a painted portrait—available to people of middle class means. Moreover, with the extremely high childhood mortality rates of the age, a postmortem photograph might be the only image a family could ever have as a keepsake of a lost infant or child.

This practice impresses contemporary sensibilities as macabre. It eventually peaked in popularity around the end of the 19th century and waned as “snapshot” photography became more commonplace with the introduction of the Kodak camera. Yet response to my July 30th post about mummies, “I See… Dead People,” has been so unexpectedly strong, I cannot resist the impulse to once again pander to people’s morbid curiosities.

However, I do think viewing these images can serve a higher purpose than merely satisfying our gratuitous and arguably voyeuristic urges. They remind us of the pervasive fact of life that without dark and loss, we cannot fully appreciate and optimize the light and love that life has to offer.












Groove of the Day 

Listen to The Cure performing “Pictures of You”


3 Responses to “memento mori 2”

  1. 1 Jeanne
    September 19, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Beautiful and heartbreaking. Makes me long for the afterlife.

  2. November 21, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Very sense appealing and moving, when one realizes this was the very last the world would see. But see we have, a century or mre later.

  3. 3 hack Dofus
    September 4, 2014 at 5:16 am

    Greetings! I’ve been reading your weblog for some time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Huffman Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the great job!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: