CLOSE

Only the Creepiest Photos Ever Taken

Mourning is a strange thing, and different cultures deal with it in vastly different ways. But there are reasons people associate the Victorians with morbidity and death, and one of them is memento mori.

The fact is, postmortem photographs like this were taken more than any other kind of photograph in the Victorian era -- especially in the U.S. -- and in many cases these carefully arranged, meticulously staged pictures were the only ones ever taken of their subjects. From Stanley Burns' book Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America:

These photographs were a common aspect of American culture, a part of the mourning and memorialization process. Surviving families were proud of these images and hung them in their homes, sent copies to friends and relatives, wore them as lockets or carried them as pocket mirrors. Nineteenth-century Americans knew how to respond to these images. Today there is no culturally normative response to postmortem photographs.

So, given your lack of a "culturally normative response" to these pictures, dear reader, we advise the faint of heart among you to click elsewhere.

"Child in Coffin at the Death Room"
child.jpg

From PBS.com: "This portrait appears to have been taken in the formal parlor of a family home. The parlor, or "death room," was an important part of funerary rituals for most of the 19th century, the place where deceased family members were laid out for final respects. This image dates to c. 1890-1905, a time when many funerals were still taking place at home. Soon, however, death would begin to leave the home and by end of World War I most Americans will receive their health care in doctor's offices and hospitals and most funerals will take place in funeral homes. As the funeral "parlor" came into vogue, the home parlor was rechristened a "living room." A 1910 issue of Ladies Home Journal declared the "death room" to be a term of the past."

Also, did you notice the strange silhouette on the right side of the picture? That's the photographer's assistant, holding the casket lid open for the shot.

brothers.jpg
For me, though, more intriguing than the dead are the living who pose with them -- usually stoic and reserved, it's the little bit of emotion their faces betray that make these portraits so compelling ... and heartbreaking. (Above and below: siblings with their brothers.)

brother.jpg

Another common theme in Victorian-era postmortem photography was the staged scene of mourning, which was often highly melodramatic, like this one, "Orphans at Their Mother's Grave":
grave.jpg
The photograph above also reveals another Victorian preoccupation: spirit photography. Likely a double-exposure featuring an "actress" portraying the childrens' mother, this style seems to me a highly theatrical way to deal with one's grief.

newspaper.jpg
Another style was the photograph in which the dead were posed to look alive -- the first in this series, at the top of this post, is an "eyes-open" example. The use of props like this man's newspaper was less common; perhaps it was included to distract from the unnatural rigidness of his hands, among other giveaways.

Follow me on Twitter

nextArticle.image_alt|e
François Prost
arrow
photography
Photo Series Shows Paris, France Alongside Its Chinese Replica
François Prost
François Prost

If tourists want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa, and Versailles on their next vacation, they have options. The most obvious choice is Paris, France. Then, if they’re looking for something a bit different, they can visit Tianducheng on the edge of Hangzhou in China, which includes replicas of these attractions in its scaled-down model of the French capital. The resemblance is so convincing that it inspired photographer François Prost to capture both cities and showcase the pictures side by side.

There are Eiffel Tower replicas around the world, but Prost was intrigued by the level of detail invested in Tianducheng. “It seemed more extreme and obsessive,” he tells Mental Floss. “It was planned as a real neighborhood with people living there as they would live anywhere else in China.” So last year the Paris resident booked a flight to the city to document its people and its architecture. The Paris facsimile was built just over a decade ago, but as you can see from the photos below, the aesthetic is lifted straight from classic Europe.

After a week of taking pictures there, Prost returned to Paris where he tracked down the original inspirations of the subjects in his photos. The resulting series, titled Paris Syndrome, pairs each scene with its counterpart across the globe.

If you’re not from Paris or Tianducheng, it may be hard to match the photo to its country of origin. There are a few images that give themselves away, like the Parisian storefronts branded with Chinese lettering. According to Prost, the project “blurs our perceptions of reality. You can no longer tell what is real from the replica.”

After sharing the photos on his website and Instagram page, Prost plans to do a similar project comparing Venice in Italy to its Chinese doppelgänger. Check out the highlights from Paris Syndrome below.

Eiffel tower and replica at night.

Parisian building and replica.

Eiffel tower and replica.

Parisian storefront and replica.

Mona Lisa and replica.

Parisian fountain and replica.

Portraits of city workers.

Eiffel tower and replica.

Paris and Chinese replica.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy of François Prost.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Tzvika Stein
arrow
photography
Drone Photographer Captures Stunning Aerial Shots of a Shrinking Dead Sea
Tzvika Stein
Tzvika Stein

The Dead Sea is stunning from above, even if it is shrinking. As Lonely Planet reported, Tel Aviv-based landscape photographer Tzvika Stein uses drones to capture aerial views of the threatened body of water. “It’s beautiful and fascinating and very unique,” Stein tells Mental Floss of capturing the natural wonder that way. Yet it’s often too dangerous for him to shoot his photos from ground level.

The Dead Sea is famous for its salty, mineral-rich water and mud. Tourists visit the famous lake bordering Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank to slather their bodies with sludge—but those who can’t make the trip can purchase beauty products packed with the same natural ingredients. Due in part to this demand, the Dead Sea is rapidly shrinking, as mineral extraction companies cause water levels to dip at rates of up to 3 feet per year, according to CNN Travel.

In addition to salt and minerals, the Dead Sea is filled with sinkholes, many of which are now visible as the lake dries up. It’s dangerous to explore these craters because the surrounding ground might collapse, according to Bored Panda—which is why Stein uses his drone to safely record them from the sky.

Initially attracted to both the lake’s salt textures and its reflective water, Stein says he finds its sinkholes equally riveting, even if they are evidence of the lake’s growing plight. You can check out some of the photographer's abstract landscape shots below, or visit his Instagram or Flickr to view more works.

 Aerial drone photos of the Dead Sea in Israel, shot by Israeli photographer Tzvika Stein.
Tzvika Stein

Aerial drone photos of the Dead Sea in Israel, shot by Israeli photographer Tzvika Stein.
Tzvika Stein

 Aerial drone photos of the Dead Sea in Israel, shot by Israeli photographer Tzvika Stein.
Tzvika Stein

Aerial drone photos of the Dead Sea in Israel, shot by Israeli photographer Tzvika Stein.
Tzvika Stein

Aerial drone photos of the Dead Sea in Israel, shot by Israeli photographer Tzvika Stein.
Tzvika Stein


Tzvika Stein

Aerial drone photos of the Dead Sea in Israel, shot by Israeli photographer Tzvika Stein.
Tzvika Stein

[h/t Lonely Planet]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios