Monday, 23 April 2012

A different kind of Postmortem Photograph

As regular readers will know I am a rather obsessive collector of Vintage postmortem photographs of Children. In alot of peoples eyes they are strange items to desire and to spend so much money on, and I can't really explain my love for them, except maybe to speculate that they are some kind of attempt to face my own strong fear of death, which is prehaps the same reason they were originally made.

I feel I should put a warning here that the images futher down the page are very graphic and upsetting

I am interested to a certain extent in all forms of postmortem and mourning imagery, and while browsing recently I came across some particularly intense and strong images of death on a website dedicated to the tragic murder of a mother and her two children.
It was the case of Jeffrey MacDonald who, in 1979 brutally murdered his two daughters and pregnant wife, the details of the case were horrible, and difficult to read.
The crime scene and autopsy photographs of the little girls, however, completely captivated me in a way that only the beautiful victorian photographs have done so before. The death of any child, in any circumstance, anywhere, is a horrible thing that should never happen, but it does happen, every day, in every possible way, and for some reason these images give some kind of comfort at the same time as being horrifying.

It seems wrong to me in a way that I was so captivated by these horrific images, but I was and I think there is an incredible beauty about them, if only to serve as a way to mark an event so horrible most of us couldn't even conceive it, but i'd rather look these things in the eye than pretend they didn't happen.

Jeffrey MacDonald is serving 3 consecutive life sentences

"Suffer little Children to come unto me"

"Be still, my soul, when change and tears are past
all safe and blessed, we shall meet at last"


  1. Hello,

    I found this website through Burning House after the initial image on there intrigued me.

    So, I clicked through and whilst the above imagery is shocking it still has something captivating about it.

    I have an inherent interest in combat photography. A lot of those images are equally as disturbing as these, but similarly you still can't help but be drawn to them. You mention that maybe your fascination stems from your own feelings about death and facing up to it, etc and again I think this is where my interest with combat photography stems from.

    Most of the good examples of combat photography (Capa and McCullin spring to mind) tend to capture a moment amidst the chaos of warfare, showing the fragility of life and how it can be taken in the blink of an eye. One can't help but think about death when looking at them.

    I also noticed the short doc on Aokigahara which in turn reminded me of the Bond novel 'You Only Live Twice'. It's vastly different from the movie and a large part of the book deals with a 'Garden of Death' in the grounds of an ancient castle and the Japanese fascination with suicide (probably no coincidence that Fleming himself was at deaths door when he was writing it; the entire book is riddled with an air of melancholy).

    Long story short, your blog is ace and interesting (cool to see a fellow Worcester inhabitant with such eclectic interests too).

  2. Thanks, I'm glad you like my blog, its abit random and a mix of all sorts I guess.

    I don't really know much about combat photography, but i'm interested in anything thats got a real substance behind it.

    I love photography from the American Civil War, and there are some incredible images of warfare out there.

    Oh thats cool that you're from Worcester, I don't come across many local people into interesting things :)

  3. For combat photography check out Robert Capa. He captured some really haunting images (one in particular from the Spanish Civil War is infamous, allegedly capturing someone as they were struck by a bullet).

    I'll have to check out some of the American Civil War stuff. Sounds interesting!

    Yes, Worcester can be a bit. . . strait laced sometimes. Good to know its inhabitants can be eclectic and interesting too!

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  5. Sounds cool, I think I've seen that bullet picture.
    I love the civil war era, tintypes and daguerrotypes are just wonderful, have some amazing stuff.

    Worcester isn't the most exciting place on earth, but its OK I guess, home for me and always will be, although I would like to move somewhere else for abit x

  6. Yes! I love

    It was a godsend for research once when I needed pics of old Brooklyn and the area around the naval yard.

    Worcester is strange. Sometimes I find it alright. Other times, like yourself, I wish I was elsewhere.

  7. This is completely disgusting and the fact that the poster calls this "beautiful" shows that they are DEEPLY troubled. Get some help.

    1. I agree! This is completely wrong!! Came across this randomly on google pictures while I was doing recearch on Victorian postmortem pictures. This is so wrong to glamourise child killings and think that it's beautiful!! I can't believe something like this is aloud to be a blog! And these pictures are aloud to be so public. I feel sorry for the relatives of these poor children, to know there are people getting pleasure from these pictures seems unreal, deranged and sick!

  8. I too love vintage pm.
    It is horrible what this father did to his children.

  9. Why are these images in the public domain at all? They are of recently living, breathing babies. It's one thing to be interested in pictures of casualties of war, past or present, in a purely journalistic sense. But this is something very different. Imagine being a relative of these children. Finding out these images are on the internet for any sick individual to drool over. I really hope you seriously consider removing them and also seek professional help for what is a bizarre and disturbing hobby.

  10. I find these helpful to help build my gut to things that I may see in my career, Coroner. I know how hard this must be for people to understand, I dont see this as art but as learning material for the hard times someone like me faces. It is horrible to think about but these things happen everyday and someone has to do the job.

  11. How did you obtain crime scene ohotos? I never believed Jeffery McDonald murdered his family.The group of drug addicts did out of revenge.

  12. You are fucked up to glamorize these murders.

  13. those photos of those dead little girls are so sad and shocking. You have a powerful post regarding showing of the photos of these dead kids, i agree with you why hide the photos from the public its show the reality of what evil does in life. I agree in a way its beautiful but sad and shocking to see these photos. It tells a story of how these children's last moments in horror before their deaths.

    I view a lot of war torn photos like WW2 Europe and seen horrible photos of death and dead children, it tells a sad story what happens to these people.

    I disagree with some people's on here how they said you are glamorize murder photos of kids, i don't think you are. I have the same kind of feelings towards the photos as you. You are showing the reality the last moments these poor kids experienced and seeing these shocking photos really tells a sad story, this is the same feeling i get when looking at war photos such as the holocaust WW2.