Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Do You Think This Girl is Dead? Or, How to Tell if Your Business Is

This girl has been the subject of much debate. Is she dead or is she not?
What do you think?

Why, you might be asking, would you think she's dead, for heaven's sake!?

Back in the 1800's, though we would find the practice perfectly morbid today, families who lost loved ones routinely engaged in

This is Ebay's description of her:

"You are bidding on an ANTIQUE Possible Post Mortem, CABINET PHOTO depicting a Lovely Young Victorian Lady. TO ME, She Looks Dead. Please check out all my PICS, and see what you think. To me, she looks like she's propped up on this chair. Her left arm is very limply just hanging there. Her eyes are closed, her head hanging down. I don't know, to me it looks eerie. I don't think she's alive, but I COULD BE WRONG!! Photographer was Ph. W. Lenz, Dubuque, Iowa."

Guess how much she went for?
One hundred and forty seven dollars!

The following are opinions as to her macabre state.

"I believe she is dead for several reasons the seller did not include in her description", says Footmaven at the Grave Yard Rabbit's Association.

[1] The position of her legs. Women of the day did not sit with their knees that far apart. The right leg is turned at an awkward angle.

[2] Her dress is stuffed under her thigh. A lady would not sit for a photograph with her skirt stuffed under her. Photographs were expensive and the sitter as well as the photographer wanted them to be perfect. Women were represented in the most genteel pose possible. This is not a genteel pose.

[3] I also agree with the statement that the arms hanging down appear to be awkward. Very unladylike. The eyes look dark and sunken.

In response to Footmaven, other people said:

"I took a good look at this photograph and I also believe she is dead. Post mortem photographs are not unusual. They take many forms - lying in bed, lying on a couch, in a casket, or a previous picture placed in a scroll on a memorial card. I have not seen one of an adult propped up in a chair."

Sally J. said...

"Like you, Maven, I've never seen an adult post mortem photo where the subject is propped up in a chair. Casket or bed, yes. On the other hand, I've seen enough post mortem baby photos to last a lifetime. Is there anything more heartbreaking?

Her fingernails look black to me. Or is that just my imagination?"

Becky said...

"Totally creepy. Yep, I think she's a goner too! Not a very flattering either ;-) I don't think I've ever seen a post-mortem picture of an adult though I have of small children and infants. Gives me the weeby-jeebies just looking at her. If ya can't take a picture of me before I die, don't take one afterwards either!!!"

And Entrepreneur Chick's favorite-
Thomas MacEntee said...

"Deader'n a door nail as Scrooge once said. I also find that the arms appear a bit puffed.
Or could it just be that her corset is a wee bit tight and she has momentarily passed out?"

Now what do you guys think?
Dead? Alive? Corset faint?

I have a theory that no one has asserted yet.
What if she is merely changing poses and the photographer caught her in between?
Happens all the time!

This would explain the looking down. This would explain the awkward leg positioning. BUT, it would not explain the limp hand. It would not explain the slight edema of her arms.
Sooo, now I'm back to thinking she's dead.

While we will never be entirely certain of this girl's morbidity, what we can be certain about is a dying business.
That's so easy.

You're business is dead if:
There ain't no new sales!


  1. Good grief, I'm sure I look worse than this in some of my school photos!

  2. RNSANE,

    Hahahahahaha! Being a nurse, I thought you'd go all technical on us, guess not. Too funny.

  3. The first question is whether the photo is authentic in terms of date. I can make a photo look like that in Photoshop, so fakery is certainly possible.

    If it is a genuine period photo then it's almost certainly a postmortem photo. With the difficulty in setting up, getting a clear, in focus, correctly exposed photo, the photographers made damn sure everything was perfect before taking the image. Her pose is far too clumsy for a real portrait.

    However, what I'm really wondering is if this has sparked an idea to revive this business opportunity. Let's face it, there's not a lot of competition at the moment so the market's wide open... ;)

  4. Kim,

    I knew you'd know! So now we are all back to dead again.

    "Her pose is far too clumsy for a real portrait."

    Three things I want to say:

    (1) There actually is an organization of postmortem photographers called: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.org There purpose is to capture deceased infants and help grieving families cope- there's no charge for the photographer's service.

    (2) "A Family Undertaking" by PBS but featured on NetFlix, which I watched two nights ago, was outstanding. I'm like everyone else in America I'd say- death, more specifically dead people, kind of creep me out. This documentary made it far less creepy so much so, that I would even go as far as to consider a "home funeral" as they present a very good case. My friends own a funeral home, however. My arrangements have already been made.
    (I have a white casket with white lining... very pretty!)

    (3) Postmortem photography is still practiced in some countries today- the United States not being one of them, but you know- there could be a demand, I still see people paint their houses pink, yellow and green- and if nothing else, you'd get so much FREE publicity just because, as you said Kim, "the market is wide open".

  5. "their", not "there"- ooooh, I hate it when I do that!

  6. Have you seen the film "The Others" starring Nicole Kidman?

    It was watching this I first found out about Postmortem photography.

  7. Oh my...I don't even know what to say about this. Maybe she just fell asleep because it took too long :). Are ya'll coming over today?

  8. Interesting and challenging post!

  9. I think she is asleep. I have fallen asleep in chairs plenty-o-times. Her leg could have slipped off the other, catching the dress on the way down to cause that tuck. I bet the next picture of her is with just one eyebrow and something crass written on her forehead.

  10. Kim,

    I did see that movie. That was a good movie. Creative.

    I've known about postmortem photography from my grandfather, Jesse. He used to show me pictures when I was little.

  11. "A",

    Maybe... ha. (Taking too long.)

    Are we supposed to come over today? We have a Christmas party tonight at the country club where your brother lives.

    That was fun last weekend! But Tony won't play spades with me! How am I going to learn if no one will play with me? Boo.

    I was thinking of finding a computer game to help me learn.

    As far as getting better on Operation- I'll just accept the fact I ain't never going to be able to connect the ankle bone to the thigh bone, or whatever rubberband from hell thing I was doing.

  12. DUTA,

    Thank you! I think your posts have changed the way I see posts! You always have interesting stuff.

  13. Wow That Was Awkard,

    I love your name, btw. Very cute!

    Hmmm. Maybe she was asleep 'cause she had pony lag? Like jet lag but...

    Nice to have you visit me. Come back more often. I was over at your place the other day but got a phone call or something as I was going to comment.

  14. "Awkward", not "akward".

    Oooooooh! I think these comment sections should come with spell checks.

    My attention to detail has always seriously blown.
    Let's call up Google.

  15. Kim,

    BTW, thank you for putting "The Other's" link in your post.

  16. What you have to remember is that, back in those days, MOST people looked dead in photographs, whether they actually were or weren't. Or at least they looked stiff.

    Maybe she WANTS to look dead. "Hmmm, yeah, I'll just stuff this part of my dress under my leg here for the benefit of our photographic audience."

  17. Postman,

    Well, without makeup, I most certainly look dead.

    I think those legs of hers are strapped to the chair legs. Don't you?

  18. They very well could be. She could be paraplegic though. And have two lazy eyes.

  19. Postman,

    The first stage of grief is denial.

    I know this has been hard for you- to accept her passing. But really, she'd want you to move on, date others... be happy.