Post-mortem Portrait of an Old Woman, Anonymous, 1850

Post-mortem Portrait of an Old Woman, Anonymous, 1850

photograph, h 165mm × w 93mm × d 27mm. More details

We can hardly imagine how slow the daguerreotype process was. The long exposure time can be sensed in the sitters’ faces: concentrated looks, each and every wrinkle engraved on the plate. That makes these photos so magical. With living sitters, their heads were sometimes fixed in a device to keep them still. This was unnecessary for post-mortem photography – a 19th-century practice to immortalize the dead.

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