The New York Times (USA): the iPhone on his deathbed

Robert Alexander (Robert Alexander) died in June 2018 at 51 years of age after heart surgery. He was taken from the hospital to the medical institution to take tissue and bone, which he donated. Then the body of the deceased was transported to the farm of his uncle in Hinton, Oklahoma. There were brothers and sisters of Alexander, mother and other relatives to bury it.

the Deceased was put on a strong dining table, dressed in worn jeans, bandana Harley Davidson t-shirt Affliction long sleeves and a black leather vest with an American flag. On the wall behind hung a blanket painted on it with the flaming skull.

Mechanic Alexander loved motorcycles, while the health and Finance did not allow him to become an avid racer. When the deceased properly dressed up to make it look “real tough guy”, as he put his sister Tonya Musser (Musser Tawnya), around the table are gathered all the relatives and son-in-law Alexander did a family picture on your smartphone.

“We couldn’t remember when everyone was going along with her mother, said 34-year-old Musser. — So we decided to discuss everything. If mom wants a photo with all seven children, and there is something unhealthy in the fact that one of them is dead?”

In the end, they took a few pictures. They are all stunning and beautiful. Alexander looks so calm and stately. Relatives sent pictures to each other, but such pictures do not live in social networks, like many other photographs of the dead.

But now, at the crossroads of technology and culture, new and old habits do we begin again to photograph our dead.

For such families as Alexander, who prefer a home funeral, following a long tradition andrunning services, funeral homes, photography is a continuation of and reverence for such traditions.The context ofa Relative of French Jew killed in the terrorist attack in ParisYle: people need a class of “last aid”Yle26.10.2019 Conversation: at the moment of death a person experiences euphoria?The Conversation12.02.2020

family Members sit with relatives at the hospice or take them home from the hospital, taking care of them until death and after. They often wash the deceased and then dress them in their favorite clothes, decorate the coffin with flowers, put postcards, books and other memorabilia. They say goodbye to the dead as their ancestors did, and yet these people take pictures of the process on their smartphones.

“you Can die, so that was nice,” said 64-year-old Director-funeral Director Amy Cunningham (Amy Cunningham), which specializiruetsya on “natural” rites, without embalming or metal caskets, and also helps families who prepare the dead for burial at home.

“the Photograph captures the emotions,’ said Cunningham. — And since cell phones have everyone, we will shoot and record all events, would never do. Death is one such event. However, when Facebook photos from the funeral of a wedge between the latest antics of the tramp and look like Hitler cats, is unpleasant.”

just hate to see emoticons that accompany tragic events. What will you choose: crying smiley, or just click “like”?

Back in time

When Louise Rafkin (Louise Rafkin) placed in Facebook photo of his mother in Childbirth the day she died at 98 years of age, planted at the bedside of her deceased Golden Retriever, some family members and friends didn’t like it.

the 61-year-old Rapkin teaches martial arts in Oakland, California, and writes articles occasionally for the “new York times”. She told of how together with your friends made Family in the garden that her mother loved. They moved her to a surfboard, borrowing it from the neighbors. The neighbor’s sons helped them.

the Genus was dressed in a blue dress in Oriental style and decorated with sunflowers, roses and gladioli. She was wrapped in a sheet, then lit candles and sat with the deceased in the garden before it gets dark. It was a wonderful photograph taken in the magic hour, that time before the dusk call filmmakers. Nevertheless, they are shocking.

“I loved my mother, and her death did not unsettle me”, — said Rafkin, noting that Rhoda was in a hospice more than six months. “I went through the AIDS epidemic. I’m used to death. There are ways to make this event full of meaning. And although I’m not a religious person, I believe in the rituals in their healing power and their ability to create atmosphere.”Related articlesPainting by William ettyJP: for some, shame for others — the Golden жилаJyllands-Posten18.02.2020 The Guardian: fucking virginity, or how to talk with your child about sexye Guardian15.02.2020

According to Rifkin, picture on Facebook was a kind of obituary, a death notification Delivery. “I’m sure mom would not approve, and it’s a little frustrating. “No drivel”, — she spoke about the process of the funeral.”

some members of the family reaction was mixed. “I think what she did in the garden, was perfect, — said the niece of Rafkin 31-year-old ESDI Peterson (Ashley Peterson). But I have a feeling that because of the posted photographs people could be embarrassed, and will remain in the memory of the image they would not want to see.”

Susan Sontag (Susan Sontag) wrote that photography has its own ethics. She tells us what we are allowed to see and what is forbidden. (In the era of “Tiktok” these rules have changed beyond recognition.) If we are more familiar with the death of unknown people, their deaths captured by the photojournalists, it is due to the fact that the death of our loved ones takes a long time away from us.

of Course, there are exceptions, for example, scary images, made during the AIDS epidemic photographer Teresa Laertes Freres (Therese Frare), or pictures painted by artist David Wojnarowicz (David Wojnarowicz). The portraits of his friend and mentor Peter Hujara (Peter Hujar) like icons and seem to be some mystery.

“In a certain sense this is surprising, because over the last century or so, we are very far away from death,” says Bess Lovejoy (Bess Lovejoy), who wrote a 2013 book about the revival of photographing the dead house “Rest in pictures. The curious fate of famous corpses” (Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses). Lovejoy is a member of the order of the good death. This organization is composed of employees of the funeral industry, artists and scientists advocated the need to rethink the attitude toward death in Western culture and adopting it as a natural process.

“We go back to the old way and order, — continues Lovejoy. — A return to the past that began somewhere in the 70-ies of the movement “Back to nature” with delivery and natural childbirth. Movement of natural death is part of this trend. In these photos there is nothing unexpected, because we all carry around smartphones, and if not taken as if no event was not. Today each of us is a photographer.”

Modern photography was born in 1839, when Louis Daguerre perfected the process of creating images based on the light sensitivity of silver iodide. For decades, most often, a new technology was used to fabricate post-mortem photos. It was a real artwork, made by a professional photographer: family members of the deceased in various poses. The dead children on their parent’s lap, often with painted open eyes. Dead adults dressed in their best clothes. And even dead parents holding hands with their living children. Sometimes removed entire families who died of cholera, typhoid fever or diphtheria. These were taken, neatly stacking the dead side by side in bed.

It was a precious relic, and it often happens that the man was shot only once in a lifetime, said 81-year-old eccentric ophthalmologist Stanley burns (Stanley B. Burns). It was his idea to create an archive of burns, what do you call a collection of death and medical images, and photos in other intriguing genres stored in Packed to overflowing townhouse in Midtown Manhattan.Mediadeath in the art of the middle AgesMemento moriMedievalists.net31.10.2014

Pictures of the books Dr. burns called “the Sleeping beauty” (Sleeping Beauty) (three) at the same time eerie and fascinating. Dr. burns notes that the people in the photographs it turned out very well, because ruin their illness dealt with them very quickly.

These images have become inspirational material for collectors and fans of the Victorian era, such as 48-year-old writer and curator Joanna Ebenstein (Joanna Ebenstein), which he founded in Brooklyn-now closed unique Museum of pathological anatomy. “Post-mortem photography can be considered the Western form of ancestor worship,” he said Ebenstein. This practice began to decline when people began to frequently die in hospitals, and the funeral was at the mercy of funeral homes. “Talk on this topic was taboo,” explained Ebenstein.

(In 1910, the magazine “ladies ‘ home” was replaced by the image of the hall, where the Americans put the coffin with the body of the deceased for nearly a century, and called it “the living room”. Nascent at the time of the funeral industry took the word “hall” itself, adding the adjective “funeral”.)

But how, said Dr. burns, the real end of the post-mortem photos and exquisite funeral rituals marked the First world war. “The deaths were so many, he said. — If you mourn over all, you lose morale. And it is unpatriotic”.

“But now people are returning to this tradition, continued Dr. burns. — Passion for photography today is the same as it was with the Victorians. People want to show that was with the deceased to the end that they cared about him, loved him. This is the last link, and it wants to reflect”.


the Funeral industry is slowly developing and evolyutsioniruet. If you have first urns and beautiful coffins, now there is a whole army of professionals (mostly women) with different titles (teacher, end of life, midwife of death, and so on). They put their work on display in social networks, often with humor and with photos.

Their message is: don’t be afraid of death, make yourself comfortable, she’s not ugly, and we have pictures to prove it.

They place pictures of the deceased in beds, which relatives prepared for burial and also burial sites. They show that death, as does the 41-year-old master of funeral Affairs Melissa Manfred (Melissa Unfred), working in Austin, Texas. Woman sometimes she lies in a shallow grave decorated with flowers and turf. Manfred selling on the website Etsy t-shirt with the words “Cremate Patriarchal” popular on Twitter and Instagram. She is one of many preachers of the motion of a positive attitude to die.

the 35-year-old Caitlin Doughty (Caitlin Doughty) works as a funeral Director and he calls himself an activist and smetanai funeral industry. She recently presented a posthumous photo shoot in the Victorian style at the Museum “Merchant house” in Manhattan, inviting the photographer that makes pictures on metal, and then posted the pictures on YouTube.The context ofa Relative of French Jew killed in the terrorist attack in ParisYle: people need a class of “last aid”Yle26.10.2019 Conversation: at the moment of death a person experiences euphoria?The Conversation12.02.2020

Doughty is the founder of the order of the good death and the author of “My cat will eat my eyes?” (Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?), which was published in September last year. She also has a book “the Smoke is corrosive to the eyes and other lessons from the crematorium” (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory), and several works with a rollicking names, the purpose of which is to rip the veil of mystery from death.

“we Cannot say that no one ever takes their mom in a coffin, — said Doughty. — I have pictures of my grandparents, embalmed and lying in coffins. But the attitude changed. Now it is: “Mom share at the funeral home, they’re doing something behind closed doors, and then return us the body.” Of course, you can take pictures, but it’s like a statue in a Museum. The product of someone else’s art. I have a feeling that I understand why these images of natural bodies is becoming more. People prepare the dead for burial, do it together and take pride in their work.”

Doughty gives families tips and advice about the rituals and the procedures for the preparation of the deceased, such as cooling the body with dry ice. “One family sent me pictures in the process, but not to ask, do them, and to show how beautiful it is. People are afraid that they will not work that the dead would seem somehow unfamiliar and unpleasant. And when they do, they want to take a picture”.

the funeral Director from Brooklyn Cunningham recalls how a few years ago played in Albany and said that would not want to after death looked at her relatives and friends, because it will look not the best way. Itthinks that one old man shouted to her rather sharply and loudly: “get over it!”

“Smile, I thought, but it’s wonderful to die relaxed, unconstrained in any way without worrying about their appearance”.

Portraits of memory

Patients with cancer and other incurable diseases has long been taking pictures and video to show their suffering and to make visible what is considered unacceptable. They place them in blogs, on Twitter, and now in Tictac. They are asked to do so by their relatives and friends when they themselves becomes difficult. They are pushing visual and emotional boundaries beyond the comfort zone.

As in the Victorian era, postmortem photos of children carry deep emotional meaning and have a special purpose. “Now I put myself to sleep” (Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep) is an organization of photographers, volunteers who make memory portraits of children, often in the hands of parents to help them through the grief.

Photographer Oliver Wasow (Oliver Wasow) recalls how last summer a friend sent him pictures of his son, who died of cancer at the age of eight. She was taking pictures of the worsening of his health, and then my own grief.

Look at these pictures hurt. “These photos “like” is impossible”, — said Wasow. But he understood what value they present to his friend. Some people, he said, see the difference between analog and digital photography. For them, digital photography is a kind of activity, and the analog pictures are documents.

“And if we add to this social network, it turns out the recording process, not fixing the individual. But the goal remains unchanged, which in the 19th century that in the 21st, said Wasow. Is documenting the transition from the physical body to memory.”Related articlesPainting by William ettyJP: for some, shame for others — the Golden жилаJyllands-Posten18.02.2020 The Guardian: fucking virginity, or how to talk with your child about sexye Guardian15.02.2020

There are more gentle ways to capture the process of dying than a portrait of a man who lost his life. 40-year-old Lashanna Williams working in Seattle as a masseuse and assistant on the end of life, making portraits of his dying clients with their permission, and then sends them to family members if requested.

She photographs the area between the thumb and index finger and the calluses on human hands. Wrinkles, says Williams, is a repository of memories and experiences. It can make the flabby skin on the arm, or a scar, and sometimes prepares collages, combining such images with images of leaves or flowers. It is abstract and at the same time very intimate photos.

But the aesthetics and the language of contemporary post-mortem photography is not only in the folds of the fabric and the flower petals. 42-year-old Monica Torres (Monica Torres) works as desirelove (this is the person who does hair and makeup dead) and so on in Phoenix, and is rather frivolous Twitter account. Her expertise is emotional trauma, and she makes traditional methods of dead men similar to themselves.

“I can’t create positive and lasting memories for relatives without the chemicals and tools used in the work,” she said. Relatives of the deceased often asked her BoDneeds to be run pictures of themselves or gather at the tomb to act on the memory, said Torres.

Prone to enlightenment, she also makes vivid and living pictures, by posting them on its website. “Now, when the movement of a positive attitude to death has gained momentum, says Torres, the families start showing interest. And photos of their grief and emotions are a powerful tool that will help them accept death and to treat it positively. We want to give strength to the relatives, telling them about what we do and why our art is so valuable.”

the 37-year-old beautician and a hair stylist from Charlotte BEM Truesdale (Truesdale Bam) is preparing the dead for burial 10 years. When in 2016, the 61-year old died his mother, Cynthia Cummings (Cynthia Cummings), he also worked with her. He has this habit — while working with the dead he can wear headphones and turn on some Church music, although he works in silence.

Making mothers hair and makeup, he pinned her to the hair white feather and lace robe with rhinestone trimmed dress, stockings, and then lifted her body and carefully laid down into the coffin.

this Whole process he was shot on a smartphone. However, when Truesdale began to kiss her face, as he often did when mother was alive, a colleague took the phone from him and he took these shots. After that, the man dumped all the photos on the hard drive and looked at them only in the last week of January.

“that day I had many emotions, he said. — Something told me — I think it was her that I do not cherish the memory of her as she asked.” When the mother of Trousdale was alive, she made him promise that he will make sure everyone remembered her. The man said, “I went back and forth and thought we should do it or not? People would think I was weird.”

in the Evening Truesdale still posted pictures of his deceased mother on Facebook. The next morning he woke up and saw in the thousands of comments and notifications. Many people asked me to make a post public, and he did. By the end of the day he “liked” 25 thousand people and shared the post 15 thousand.

the Most common among the four thousand comments were the words that Cynthia Cummings looks great, and that Truesdale did everything great. Strangers wrote how they regret not have done the same with their dead relatives.

Brothers and sisters, too, thanked him. “They didn’t know whether they want to watch these pictures, he said. But they looked”.

the new York times contain estimates of the solely foreign media and do not reflect the views of the editorial Board of the new York times.