Photographing the Dead: The History of Postmortem Photography from The Burns Collection and Archive
Observatory (543 Union St., Brooklyn)
Postmortem photography, photographing a deceased person, was a common practice in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These photographs, from the beginning of the practice until now, are special mementos that hold deep meaning for mourners through visually “embalming” the dead. Although postmortem photographs make up the largest group of nineteenth-century American genre photographs, until recent years they were largely unseen and unknown. Dr. Burns recognized the importance of this phenomenon in his early collecting when he bought his first postmortem photographs in 1976. Since that time he has amassed the most comprehensive collection of postmortem photography in the world and has curated several exhibits and published three books on the subject: the Sleeping Beauty series. Tonight, Dr. Burns will speak about the practice of postmortem photography from the 19th century until today and share hundreds of images from his collection.