Post mortem photographs

Charles Cowling



I’m sorry, but this post has been suspended. We like to be a very open forum, and objections to it were balanced by approval of it — but we just don’t feel comfortable about it. 










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The Good Funeral Guide – Post mortem photography – The Good Funeral GuideSimon FerrarJenny UzzellcharlesKingfisher Recent comment authors

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[…] We had quite a debate recently when we published some recent post mortem photgraphs. […]

Simon Ferrar

I think that funeral and death photography most certainly has its merits for family albums.

Photographs taken for the express intention of public viewing whether in the name of art or science should, I feel, only be allowed if that was the deceased’s written intention before death.

I know we don’t own our body when we die but if permission wasn’t given then decent, human respect for the dead should be paramount.

Jenny Uzzell

I think perhaps its because he is so young, but yes, he doesn’t look as if he is dead and that is quite…un-nerving.

I take Kingfisher’s point about privacy, but I do see why people would want to do this…its the last thing that you can ‘hold on to’ and in terms of the original Victorian pictures it was often taken as a last opportunity for a family portrait. I entirely understand that. Whether it is useful or ‘healthy’ in the long term is a different debate, I suppose.


I think my unease is due to not knowing where the photos come from. Why does Gerard Cantinotti have them? Are they used with the permission of the families of these people? The internet is a big scary place, and it only takes these to fall into the wrong person’s hands…

Yes, I’m thinking they should be private I’m afraid.

Jon Underwood

Personally I like looking at them. Dead bodies serve as a great momento mori / vitae. And, less obviously, death in my (limited) experience, has a special atmosphere of transcendence and peace. These photos also communicate that to me.

Kathryn Edwards
Kathryn Edwards

Am intrigued by your ‘should’, Jenny! Do you mean that he looks the most living-like?

Do you know the source of your discomfort, dear Kingfisher? Are they a too-public private thing??

I ‘like’ them, in the sense that they remind me of personal post-mortem photographs that I have (including those that I took with my own camera), and how helpful they were, especially in the first flush of post-funeral blues.

Jenny Uzzell

I can see a purpose to them for the families. I’m not uncomfortable with them as such, although the photographs of the policeman do make me feel….sad I suppose because he, of all of them looks out of place. He ‘should’ be alive. Purely a gut reaction!


Am I alone in being a little uncomfortable with these pictures?