Posts Tagged ‘photography’
Many centuries ago, the Celts believed that their late relatives and friends have gone to a better place and marked their funerals with rich feasts and a lot of laughter. The Romans buried important members of society under roads and paths, because they believed that many people passing over their remains is a sign of honour and respect.
In the medieval fantasy series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, the members of House Stark receive their own stone statue in the catacombs of the castle after they are gone, while the Tully House follows an ancient ceremony of setting the remains of the deceased on fire with the help of flaming arrows in the middle of the river.
The scholars of Jordan College in Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ have another interesting ritual – the skulls of the deceased are preserved in special underground vaults and their ‘demons’ are represented by golden coins.
Indeed, the ways of remembering practiced in the real and the imaginary worlds vary dramatically and change over time. And while some ideas of remembering may appear shocking to us, it is useful to be acquainted with the different options of maintaining the connection, letting go and preserving memories. One really interesting way of remembering, which is not too popular now but was often used in America and Europe in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, was the memorial portraiture, also known as post-mortem photography.
In 1839, the invention of the daguerreotype made it possible for many people to have their pictures taken quickly and at an affordable price (in contrast to the costly and slow painted portraits). And while many people took advantage of the invention of photography and made sure to have photos of memorable events, a new application of the technology was quickly invented and adopted – Memorial Portraits. The families of deceased people often hired photographers to take the photo of a family member who had just passed away and the resulting pictures were their only visual memory of this person.
The interest of post-mortem photography soon motivated the photographers to discover different methods of representation. Indeed, some pictures showed the deceased person in their coffin, but there were many situations when the man behind the camera tried everything to make the model look as alive as possible. If you browse through this gallery of memorial portraits, you will see that some people look absolutely alive and you wouldn’t have guessed the nature of the photo if you didn’t know what you are going to see. Other photographs tried to arrange the photo in a way that would convince us the model is sleeping – especially when it came to babies or small children. They would usually hold a favourite object of theirs – a doll or a teddy bear, or even a pet! – to make the photo more realistic.
At one point, post-mortem photography became so popular that deceased pupils and students were included in collective photos of the class or the school. They were kept standing with the help of special tools that supported them, and later the photograph retouched the pictures to make them look alive. In this 9GAG post you can see some of the different techniques used by the photographers when shooting a memorial portrait.
Later in the 20th century, post-mortem photography started to lose its popularity. Indeed, when browsing the old photos, you can see how hard it was for family members to pose with their deceased relatives, but it also seems that they found the whole process natural, maybe even necessary for them to remember a child, a spouse, a sibling who ceased to be. If offered such service by a funeral agency today, we would probably react in a different way and will consider this a strange, shocking and unnatural process. Still, back in its day, post-mortem photography was one of the old-fashioned ways of remembering – it helped people get over their pain and preserve a fond memory of someone they had lost – and that is all that matters.
Photographing the elderly can be just as difficult as taking photographs of the kids. However you shouldn’t let that stop you, after all, how many opportunities will you have to take their photo?
I personally enjoy taking photos of the older generation – their wisdom, experience and genuine expressions are right there waiting to be captured on film. Here are some tips which I think will help you.
Photograph Them In Action
Often when we think of the elderly we think of an old person sitting down. Let’s change that attitude and try to photograph them when they are out and about doing something. Many elderly people I know are members of clubs, do exercise and enjoy walking and other fitness activities. So get out there and photograph them in action.
Photograph Them With Other Family Members
One person is interesting. Two people are even more interesting – particularly when the image is one of varying generations – grandson and grandma for example. Include other family members and photograph the interaction that takes place. Don’t forget to take photographs of them doing childlike activities as well – this allows you to get a rare glimpse into what they might have been like as a child.
Photograph Them Up Close
Our natural instinct is to take a photograph with many things in the background to fill the shot. Forget that for a moment and focus on capturing just them – their face and features. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words in these types of images so allow their image to fill the screen.
Experiment With Colour, Black and White and Other Features
Don’t just snap a photo and leave it at that. Experiment with colour, black and white and sepia tones to find the right style to capture the image. Changing the image can really bring a photograph alive or create a sense of history even if the photograph was only taken this morning.
Whether you are taking a casual photo or want something more formal, allow them to be themselves without too much direction. Turn of the flash to avoid distraction and just let them relax into the setting before you take the picture. And then snap away. You are sure to get some priceless images that the whole family can enjoy.
If you are thinking of getting a photo engraved onto a pendant for yourself, or as a gift, here are some tips on shooting your photograph(s) for the best result! Firstly, think about what you want from the engraving; is it to be an oval necklace pendant or a rectangular key ring? Try to match up your engraving idea with your shooting ideas and styles.
Make sure your backgrounds are simple and that the lighting is not so strong as to cast shadows. Most importantly ensure your photograph is clear and sharp.
If shooting indoors, you can use lighting and light reflectors to lessen the shadows. If shooting in natural light choose the “golden hours”, that is, when the sun is coming up or going down as this provides you with a soft golden light that is flattering to outdoor portraits.
If you are taking more than one image that you would like to have the engraver merge, try to match the images and make them of a similar shape, size and quality. If you take just the head and shoulders of one person, then make sure you take just the head and shoulders of the second person. The engraver will have the requisite skill to then6 make these photographs merge quite naturally on the pendant.
Will you use film or digital photography? These days digital photography allows the original file to be provided to the engraver. Whilst film photography is fine to shoot with, it is possible you will then need to scan your non-digital image into a digital format, a minimum of 300dpi is recommended.
If you follow these tips you should come up with some GREAT photography to be used by your chosen engraver. And finally, don’t forget to have fun with your photography!!!