Francis Cooper

Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2001 16:30:35 -0500

I recently purchased THE WORLD OF FRANCIS COOPER. I am enjoying it very much.  I was disappointed however to not find a photograph that I was told was in the book.  It is Hugh Stewart and daughter Edith at McCoysville Mill.  Is it in another book?  Thanks

From: Jane Atwell <>

Date: Thu, 26 Oct 2000 13:27:44 -0400

I was reading a poem about a girl and her bicycle and flashed
upon a memory of a photograph of Cooper's fiancee and her
bike. I combined the two at:
I think they work very well together. Too bad the poem's not as good as the photo.

From: Jim Wilson <>

Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 16:47:05 -0400

an artist not unlike Sutcliffe of Whitby

From: M.Cousins <>

Date: Thu, 4 May 2000 13:50:25 -0400

Dear Francis Copper,

I really like your photos, it's got a very good texture and colour in it.

From Katy

From: Katy <>

Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 09:41:23 -0500

can i have more information about Francis Cooper? i am doing
project on the photographer and i need more informations
thank you

From: Bhylu <>

Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2000 20:17:04 -0500

I would like to see more of Cooper's work.
Juniata Co. really interests me. I think you did a fine job.

From: GaryC.Fowler <>

Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 11:26:50 -0500

Wonderful look at the 1890's. His photos have amazing structure and contrast.
Sad to read he didn't continue to photograph.  The set-up of the Cooper
web page is easy to use and kept me curious. thanks

From: Martha Goodell <>

Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 11:51:38 -0400

This book was just added to our Journalism Library here at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Cooper's photographs are absolutely wonderful. The landscapes could as easily be my great Grandfather's farm in Almartha, Mo.

Submitted by: Mary H. Beach <>

Date: Thu, 12 Mar 1998 12:47:03 -0500

Great piece. Nicely reasoned with good examples. The photographs are great and not over analyzed. Thank you for helping put so many of us n a historical perspective. My own work is surprisingly similar. Nice work and thanks.

Submitted by: (Jim Ryder)

Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 22:51:12 -0500

This is a truly fascinating collection of "period" work. Since it only includes 20 pieces, is it safe to assume that it was taken from a much larger body of work? If so, can additional examples of his work be accessed on the internet (at what address)?

Submitted by: (Euin Swafford)

Date: Sun, 26 Oct 1997 08:05:37 -0500

I have throughly enjoyed F Coopers photographs, he had an exceptional eye for composition and a love of life. I am going to find out all I can about him. Thank you for making Mr. Cooper and his work available.

Submitted by: (Geoff Rogers)

Date: Wed, 30 Apr 1997 09:11:27 -0400

Viendo la obra de Cooper, me parece importante encontrar los nexos plásticos con otros fotógrafos que han mirado su tiempo y las gentes de otras partes del mundo.

Submitted by: (hernan henao)

Date: Tue, 3 Dec 1996 13:00:45 -0500

Thank you for bringing Cooper's work to the Web. It's hard to imagine why he gave up the "art" of photography so easily. He was obviously incredibly talented. I am actually looking for information on photographers in the Yukon gold rush. Any assistance you could give would be appreciated.

Submitted by: (Joan Daugherty) 

Date: Tue, 19 Nov 1996 23:38:05 -0500

galvanic, fractious, sere, american, side-splitting, copasetic and crepuscular.:

Submitted by: (max ferguson) 

Date: Wed, 6 Nov 1996 16:19:04 -0500

I find a good professional work, I myself am studying visual anthropology and working togheter with other students an exhibit of anthropological photography for the next year, and that will be concern history and our work as anthropologist

Submitted by: (Ulises Rozas C.) 

Date: Mon, 7 Oct 1996 21:54:06 -0400

Thank you so much for your time and effort in providing others with this type of information. I enjoyed it all and I learned more about my and white photography. I believe Mr. Cooper was very talented and I am glad his daughter brought the photos out of the closet so to speak. Where do the negatives reside now. Are there contempory prints being made? I am involved in historical photographers/photography of the Pacific Northwest. I enjoyed this very much. thank you again.

Submitted by: (Susan Parish) 

Date: Thu, 5 Sep 1996 01:49:03 -0400

I congratulate you on your fine "rememberence" of Francis Cooper. The photography collection is fantastic. "Franks" first wife was my cousin, and his second wife, Mary Crawford, was my grandmother. I grew up in Juniata County and spent many a visit talking to "Frank" when I was a small lad. Thank you for your account of Francis.

Allen Beale

Submitted by: (Allen Beale) 

Date: Sun, 4 Aug 1996 20:18:53 -0400

Wonderful! I do admire what you have done.

Submitted by: (Heinz) 

Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 23:48:44 -0400

Jay, I enjoyed this article. Have you ever seen a catalog to the 1899 Wannamaker exhibit. With great effort, I've been able to locate photocopies of several of the later J.W. exhibits. I presume your evidence for Cooper's involvement comes from papers retained by Cooper's estate. Andy Eskind

Submitted by: ( 

Secure the Shadow by Jay Ruby

Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2002 22:08:46 -0400


Submitted by: daniel (keys@tasmail)

Date: Sun, 25 Jun 2000 18:38:17 -0400

 I am pleased to have located your site this afternoon. Death is rarely a topic that is casually discussed but you have expressed your thoughts and observations in a clear and engaging way. I will look for your book as I am interested.

     Good job.


From: Martin --- <>

Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 00:58:06 -0400

I think that memorial photography is a beautiful thing, and I am interested to learn as much about it as I can.  Do you have other websites available to the public?  Do you know of any books written on the subject?  I've heard of one, but can't find it, called "Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America".  Ever hear of it?  Please get back to me when you can.  Thank You!!............Holly

From: Holly --- <>

Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2001 22:52:02 -0400

Mr. Ruby-

I'm doing a presentation on postmortem photography for a video culture honors seminar, and am using your book as a departure point for the role of postmortem photography in today's society.  In chapter four of your book, you discuss the continuation of the practice, paying attention to the psychological/grieving processes and motivations.  For my project, I am creating a multi-media experiment which attempts to challenge, recreate, and perhaps desensitize our (Western) view of death, by combining contemporary fiction, poetry, music, photography and theory.  While I am interested in the use of postmortem photography for familial and personal mourning; I am wanting to concentrate on the fascination and perhaps fetishism involved in both taking and viewing the photographs, as I am focusing on their role in media and video culture.  If you have any points of referral (websites/essays/books/pictures) that could lead me in this direction, I would be extremely grateful.
Thanks for your study and time,

Michael Wolfe
University of Iowa

From: Michael Wolfe --- <>

Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2001 17:31:00 -0500

Compelling and evocative.  Thanks very much for making these images available.

Rick Gray

From: Rick Gray --- <>

Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2001 08:34:34 -0500


My name is Piotr K³awsiuæ and I am a Polish student of sociology. I'm writting my final essay in which I'm trying to answer the question: why do people take pictures?

I'm not interested in artistic nor any other professional photography (everyone who considers him/herself an artist or a professional is the one for me). I feel you take it for granted that taking pictures is a kind of communication.
My idea is that it can also be interpretated as a ritualized, sometimes magic action. We take pictures to underline that the meeting, place or given people are important to us. We also set the truth - everyone knows that pictures don lie. Thus we photograph what we want to be in our past, memory, self. Thereby, by taking pictures, we construct "reality".
Another aspect of the case is immortality. As any other kind of creativity (?), amateur photography (especially portraits) can be understood as a struggle with death. I think, that people subconciously believe that a snap is something more than just a piece of paper (thats why they carry their children pictures in their wallets and they tear the pictures with their ex-partners into two pieces).

They use them to build TV-set altars sacrificed to the dead, they talk to the dead while looking at their pictures, sometimes they even sleep with the snaps.

The problem is that people photograph unpleasant moments of funerals. If they want to keep the dead person in memory, why aren't their pre-mortem snaps sufficient? Maybe they want to have a proof, that the person is really dead, that everything was done as it should be... Maybe they use the moment of taking picture to escape from the situation and/or sacrum...Or maybe it is just a meaningless action (even if it is, I wouldn't be a first anthropologist writing about fiction). Another idea comes from Vincent Thomas. He wrote, that untill the rotting, the dead body is seen not really dead. Perhaps those who snap the dead try to catch the last glimpse of their life (unrotten corpse is treated as a person).
I know that the ideas represented here seem to be chaotic and naive, but I would like to ask you to comment them and to give me your answer to the main question:
why do people snap?

Your faithfully

     Piotr K³awsiuæ

PS I can't effort bying "Secure the shadow" without knowing weather it can be useful for me and it is unavailible in Polish libraries and bookshops. Does it include any interpretations of amateur photographers action?
Maybe you could recommend me someone to contact or something to read?
Thanks for your time.

From: Piotr K³awsiuæ --- <>

Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2000 15:22:08 -0500

 dear jay ruby. thnx for your highly mbitious and interesting project. i myself am working on an adaptation of mahler's kindertotenlieder and will re-do the postmortem photography of 1890's in the present time...therefore i was deeply interested in your project. i would be very hppy to receive a copy of your book. i live in istanbul and would be hard to find it regards + would like to chat sometime re: my project... best, happy new year...k.

From: köken ergun  --- <>

Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2000 12:04:34 -0500

 A fantastically insightful book on a fascinating and underestimated subject.  The work was highly invaluable on my thesis on the subject and a great piece of work.

From: Rebecca Rivenell --- <>

Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000 09:22:45 -0500

 I am currently doing a PhD about stereoscopy in Brazil. The original title of my thesis was Stereoscopy and Death, for I am sure stereos exacerbate the inherent morbid character of photography. However, I was forced to abandon it, at least temporarily, because of the difficulty in getting related material over here in Brazil, or indeed in finding hard evidence of a link between stereos and death, other than poetic. I have come across, nevertheless, many examples of funereal portraits and even a few such stereos, but nothing like the superb infant cadaver you present in the site. Have you come across any consistent body of stereo images relating to death?

As I browsed through your site, I remembered that it is common in the North and North-east of Brazil to take snapshots of dead people and have them in family albums. Portraits on tombfaces are fairly widespread throughout the country.

I remember seeing at least 5 examples of dead babies portraits (c. 1870) in the collection of a Brazilian photographer.

Anyway, I hope you find time to exchange some info. I had seen your book in bibliographies, and it was a pleasant surprise to come across it in the Net.

Gavin Adams

From: Gsvin Adams --- <>

Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2000 22:22:23 -0500

 My name is Linda I acidently came across your site after having typed in postmortem photographs of babies. Im a photographic artist in Melbourne australia. Nine years ago my second born, a son, died of cot death. This lead me to researching the nature of photography and the deceased, I also used it in my research work at the University of Melbourne. On reflection this was a very convenient way of avoiding the grief i was experiencing. I have at various stages attempted to develope an idea for an exhibition based on my personal experience and research.

I was so excited when I found your site particularly the text on death and post mortem photographs it has rekindled my desire to finish my work and resove my grief.

I was represented by the Luba Bilu Gallery for 10 years it was a commercial located in inner city Melbourne and had a very high profile  of artist 200 or more. After my son died I had one more show and retired. I have spent the last 6 years giving lectures and working with kids with Mental and social eco dysfunction a most challenging experience with profound results.

This is my work nowthank you for putting such a good site on photography together I have found it a great resource.

From: Linda Gabriel Jullyan --- <>

Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2000 17:11:09 -0500

My supervisor pointed me in the direction of your web site. I am about to hold a photographic exhibition with another photographer called 'Our Fathers: childhood, loss and memory' At the opening there will be a lecture by a professor of photography about death in photography (hence my research) and we are also hoping to involve local bereavment organisations.
My colleague lost his father when he was fifteen and has only recently used it as the basis for an exhibtion. I lost my father when I was ten and the work I did six years ago involved me revisiting my childhood home (my father committed suicide there) and locations such as the last place I saw him. I produced a book which has laid at the bottom of a draw for six years. All the photographs of my father were destroyed by my mother at the time of his death and it was'nt until she died 10 years ago, when I went through the photpographs, that I realised that the image held in my head all those years of him was nothing like he was in photographs - I went through all the negatives after her death and had any photgraphs of my father, especially those with me on, printed.
I have an MA in photography and I am currently undertaking a PhD in Photography and Anthropology. The work I did about my father was a one off and I am now involved in totally different research.
I have bookmarked the web site and will go back to it when I have more time, it is most interesting. I will also pass it on to my colleagues involved in the exhibition

Barbara Hind

From: Barbara Hind --- <>

Date: Thu, 26 Oct 2000 00:35:28 -0400

 I am extremely interested in pursuing this as a hobby, are there any other sites or areas that you think I need to check in to?

From: Lori Griffin --- <>

Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2000 23:23:32 -0400

Many people I have spoken with are disturbed by the thought of remembering the dead through photographs.  Personally, I think memorial photography is a beautiful way of remembering your loved ones.

From: Holly --- <>

Date: Sun, 24 Sep 2000 07:58:54 -0400

 I have looked everywhere for this book..????Im enthralled with these photos! Thanks.......

From: Robbie --- <>

Date: Tue, 1 Aug 2000 18:05:35 -0400

Wonderful pictures.  I have been photographing nature and the enviroment since 1988.  My wife and I are both funeral directors and we collect tin types and other images of funeral rites.  We have begun a quest to photograph head stones of infants from the late 1800's in Texas.  I just wanted to tell you how great it is to see someone else enjoy the ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY as it was in the early years.

David Patterson
Freelance photographer

Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2000 15:42:48 -0400

Fabulous website --- explores an area of life, death, and the intermingling of photography that has interested me for as long as I can recall. Thank you for sharing this with me.

From: Dean Hensel --- <>

Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2000 19:03:22 -0400


I had just sent you a note re: 1953 Tabula.
On further exploration of your site I discover this wonderful book, Secure The Shadow. I will shortly order the cloth version as I already have a good collection related to cemeteries.
Quick story...
Last summer the father of a dear friend died, here in Texas. After the service the body and procession moved about 75 miles down the road to a rural family plot. There, more friends and relatives awaited. The casket was reopened, and at this point my friend Karen pulled out her camera and calmly began snapping pictures of her late father. Well, you and I know there's a long history of this, but few others do that these days. It just made me love her more that she would have the independance to take the photos that she wanted.
Can't wait to see your work.


From: Jim King --- <>

Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2000 12:07:10 -0400

 I learned of post-mortem photos while taking a photography class at the Eastman House a few summers ago.  I stumbled upon your site while trying to find some historical photographs for a project I'm working upon.  Your work and the pictures you've compiled are amazing.  One cannot look upon them without being tremendously touched.  Your site is most assuredly not what I was looking for, but, with a tear in my eye, I tell you that it certainly grounded me a little bit this afternoon.

From: B. McKinney --- <>

Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2000 16:11:24 -0400

As a collector of funereal items and post-mortem photos, this work is especially profound to me.Thank you for the wonderful book.I hope to continue preserving these pieces of history for years to come.

From: tanya rodgers --- <>

Date: Thu, 6 Jul 2000 15:16:08 -0400

 I thought this book did an excellent job of presenting this very important social phenomenon both without making it morbid and sentimentalizing it. I hope there were thousands of others who thought so. Do you know how many copies sold?
I thought Ruby's comments about the tendancy to affix context after the fact were very insightful.

From: Martha N. Steele --- <>

Date: Mon, 29 May 2000 23:48:21 -0400

 Your book was fantastic, but I thought you were a little hard on Dr. Burn's SLEEPING BEAUTY.

I have a cousin who takes post mortems of family members but he won't show them, claims they don't exist, even though they are an open family secret. What do you do with people like this?!

From: Joe D'Alessandris --- <>

Date: Thu, 11 May 2000 07:43:13 -0400

 This I found to be very interesting. I wish we had done this in my family, taken photographs of the departed.
 I don't have a very good visual memory and can't visualize the grandparents, for example.

Visit esp, Elsa Dorfman's stuff...

Submitted by: Stuart Cody (

Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2000 11:57:48 -0400

 I happened on your webpage and found the photo of Liby Feiga Bonchefsky's tombstone.
 She happens to be my great great grandmother.  Is it possible to find out the location of the grave.
 I do not have any family that can recall where it is.  I would appreciate a reply if possible.

Thank you,

Alan Bonn

From: Alan Bonn --- <>

Date: Sun, 9 Apr 2000 00:23:02 -0400

spent this evening looking at lewis carroll's photos of drowsy
children before i found these dead children and hadn't made the
connection till then

From: pauline --- <>

Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000 00:52:06 -0500

 who is the child at the end of your web page, photographed
 in her casket?  it is a very haunting image.

 [unidentified, though the daguerreotype is by Southworth and Hawes of Boston. jds]

your page was very interesting.

From: Judy --- <>

Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2000 02:50:44 -0500

 I became acquainted with Secure the Shadow about 2.5 years ago.
 To speak simply about the book:  it affected the direction of my study of
 photography.  I was a graduate student in fine arts photography struggling
 with how to make my work reflect the historical dimension that
 dominates the medium.  I was working with found photographs,
 mainly anonymous snapshots, and was so taken with the treatment
 of post-mortem photography and the idea that the subject could be
 researched and treated in such a comprehensive fashion that I, almost
 immediately, turned my study towards a more direct
 anthropological/cultural view of snapshot photography.

Currently I am working on a research project that specifically deals
with how a trio of small new mexican towns have used photography
to reflect their cultural, record their traditions and shape an identity.

I have often fantasized about communicating with Mr. Ruby, and
expressing my appreciation for his book.  My fantasies have taken
me further to think that I could some day work with Mr. Ruby and aid
in his research for a future project. (Just wanted to put that in in case
he is looking for someone to fill that position.)

Thank you,

Lorena Turner

Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 10:20:10 -0500

Commemoration of death:

I am a Romanian student in social sciences, starting an anthropological research concerning
funerals in a Romanian industrial zone. The Jiu Valley, situated in the central Romania, is
one of the main mining zone of Romania, inhabited by a small population of "natives" which
call themselfs "momarlani", and incomers, arrived there to work as miners (most of
them were brought by the socialist regime  from other zones of the country). {note:
both groups are ethincally the same). The momarlani are still practicing an ancient t
ype of funeral: they make the graves near the house, in the garden (they live in rural areas
- it is pretty tough to delimitate the "rural" and "urban"). What do you think about this
kind of commemoration?

I will start my research in april (the second field research, as the first one was very
short and very exploratory). My intention is to make a short film (I will study visual
anthropology this semester).     Please send me feed-back. Thank-you!

From: Dragomir Gabriel --- <>

Date: Sat, 4 Mar 2000 20:33:36 -0500

 I enjoyed this collection, I will check out your book.  I have photographed
 tombstones as a hobby, (Concord & Boston, Mass are great places for that.)
 I believe that hispanic artists have photographed corpses since the early 1900's.
 I was unsurprised because of the culture's "Dia de los Muerte" holiday & their
 well adjusted attitudes in that area.  Considering some of the less sensitive
 work on this subject, this was tasteful.

From: Cynthia Caldwell-Solem --- <>

Date: Sun, 23 Jan 2000 12:02:19 -0500

as a medical photographer undertaking my thesis of my BSC in Medical Illustration Degree on breavement
photography of babies i found your web site very interesting.

i would be interested in knowing how the book would be of interest to my disseration on the subject above.
does it include information on the history of bereavement photography of babies?
also do you know of any other web-sites, books, people etc. who would be of interest to me for my thesis?
I would be very much grateful of your help.


Marie Boultbee
Medical Photographer

From: Marie Boultbee --- <>

Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2000 00:22:30 -0500

I visited this site for an assignment in my Visual Anthropology class at Western Washington University
(Bellingham, WA.) I thought you might appreciate the comments that I made to my professor:

"I spent a good deal of time in the Securing the Shadow section of his site, partly out of morbid curiousity
and partly because it was fascinating. I always associate photographs of death with Queen Victoria,
but forget to associate it with slain leaders, a la JFK, Che Guevarra, Chairman Mao or Lenin.
And I never once associated it with middle class, common folk. So all in all, this was an
informative site. I also appreciated the feedback form at the bottom of the title page -- interpretive
anthropology rocks."

And it does! Thanks for hosting this site.

Amy Jones

From: Amy Jones --- <>

Date: Sat, 8 Jan 2000 03:50:48 -0500

 The most beautiful photograph I have ever seen was that of Victor Hugo on his death bed. The role
 of photography  historically facinates me, and I have pondered the cultural significance of its removal
 from funeral customs. It was a pleasure to find your book because it educated my interest and provided
 a gateway of bibliographic materials into visual anthroplogy. I am now blissfully reading all the
 essays in the periodicals, Visual Anthropology. Thank you for your work. It is inspiring as a
 photographer and student of the social sciences.

sincerely, Mildred.

From: Mildred Kennedy --- <>

Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1999 06:01:45 -0500

Sounds fascinating. I intend purchasing a copy although finding a copy in London is proving
difficult. I recently completed a masters degree in the history and theory of photography and my
thesis was on the S-21 photographic archive,mug-shot images of Cambodians shortly before e
xecution, during the Pol Pot years. A lot of my thesis included the subject of our mortality,
our simultaneous fascination and unease with it. Death being our society's last taboo. I now
intend to carry on my studies to an MPhil and then onto a Phd and my area of interest will
extend to a general fascination with traumatic images. I find it extremely interesting that
post-mortem photography still exists, it's an area I'm sure I'll research into and no doubt I'll
be in contact again. The web-site is excellent, better than most of official sites I've come across.

Many thanks.

From: Paul Ellis --- <>

Date: Wed, 18 Aug 1999 13:52:39 -0400

 What a wonderful site!  I was not familiar with this book, but it is certainly one that I would like to own.  I am currently writing my second book on mourning in the mid to late nineteenth century.  To whom would I address a request to use some of these pictures in my book.  I am particularly interested in #64 as I have few images of women in mourning.  Also in #30,#22, and #40.  It would probably be easiest to contact me at this email address as opposed to the home address I filled in.  Thank you so much.  Holly Majka

From: Holly Majka --- <>

Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 19:03:11 -0400

 It is a strange, but interesting thing. I wonder if it is still done in modern times...

From: Tonnia --- <>

Date: Wed, 9 Jun 1999 07:20:06 -0400

I am a student of Anhtropology and I find this subject and Mr. Ruby's work very interesting. My particular interest is visual culture - visual anthropology (films, photography, posters...), so apart from learning about a "custom" I didn't even know existed, I was intrigued for a research on the matter.

Man's awe before death and the ways of dealing with it (usually by "saving" the image of the dead) is a philosophical subject that has always interested me and I believe needs to be researched. Even as a continues process from the Fayum portraits and death masks to the mortuary photographs in the USA.

Finally, I would like to ask for any help or information possible about this subject.

Thank you in advance, Sophia Tsitsoni

From: Sophia Tsitsoni --- (

Date: Sat, 29 May 1999 21:54:15 -0400

fascinating. i have read a little on postmortem photography. intresting that it has disappeared as such from main stream culture.

Date: Mon, 24 May 1999 15:01:08 -0400

Interesting concept of both technical and personal uses of photography for recording death.

From: susan berger --- 

Date: Tue, 25 May 1999 16:32:53 -0400

Dear Jay Ruby, I heard you on the radio (90.7) last night, although I was in the car and I only caught the tail end of the broadcast I was very intrigued by your book and thoughts on this topic. Your work, what I have seen thus far, is of great interest to me. I am a photographer. For the past 3.5 years I have been working on a photo essay of "the American cemetery." This body of work focuses primarily on the overlooked beauty of funerary monuments. I use black & white film and only a 50mm lens. As you may know, the 50mm lens is equivalent to the human eye, therefore the point is minimal manipulation of the image, and the idea that you too can see the beauty that has been captured in my images. As a child living in Henniker, New Hampshire, my family resided next door to the Plummer Civil War Cemetery. My older brother and I would often play in the rock-fenced cemetery for hours. We were not exposed to any preconceived notions or negativity towards our fondness for playing in the small wooded area. Years later, after receiving very mixed reactions to my photography, I asked my mother if, at the tender age of 26, she was trying to exemplify tolerance, or make a statement in our remote little town. She simply stated that she allowed us to play in the cemetery because she could see us from the house. This is where I believe my attraction to cemeteries began.

My views are congruous to yours in that I believe there is much room for consciouness raising in the context of cemeteries and what their symbolism, and beauty have to offer the American people. I would welcome the opportunity to show you some of my work, and I would enjoy a discussion on where you see my photographs being best utilized, be it [fine] art form or academia. I am reachable via email at the above address or by telephone at 888-937-2310 ext. 399.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely, Lisa Robinson

From: Lisa Robinson --- 

Date: Tue, 18 May 1999 13:32:34 -0400

An eerie, yet intriguing look at life and death.

The children are especially interesting to me as they look so peaceful and innocent. Perhaps death returned their youth and beauty from the grips of disease and illness.

I am disturbed by the photos of the deceased, children especially, in "poses". It seems disrespectful and unnatural to me to falsify the truthfulness of a person's life, or death. A life-like pose in death (i.e. sitting or standing upright, eyes open) denies the reality of an individual's life and if life and death are an illusion.

You have chosen an amazing area to research. My feelings are overwhelming - from admiration for the beauty of youth to grief to "the creeps". It has much to say about humanity and our spiritual path.

From: Kari --- 

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1999 19:00:01 -0400

I just today finished reading Secure the Shadow, and I found in a truly enlightening experience. I am researching the subject of post mortem photography for a class I am taking. This book is the most valuble resource I have found to date. I was hesitant about telling my family the nature of my research for fear of looking ghoulish. I was amazed to discover that my own family has been taking pictures of our deceased loved ones for well over 30 years. Learning this made your book even more powerful, and I hope that you will continue to bring these practices into the light. Crystal

From: Crystal --- 

Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999 11:18:42 -0500

What a wonderful work! I have long been fascinated with and have collected memorial photography, funeral memoriabilia, and mourning jewelry. Others in my family share my interests so it seems "normal" to me while friends think it is a bizarre (at best!) interest. I was especially delighted to see the photograph of the dog--I have not seen an animal photography before. Thank you for your work. If you respond to email please let me know of any other of your work in this area.

PS Our local historical museum was sponsor to a visiting exhibit titled (I think) "How We Mourn" last spring. They added a number of local pieces (most especially photography) to the exhibit and it was fairly well received. If you haven't seen this travelling exhibit I can get more information for you.

From: Lisa Karen Hartman --- 

Date: Mon, 22 Feb 1999 20:06:26 -0500

Your book had such an impact on us we named our first cd after it....Thanks for the reality Brad

From: Brad --- 

Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 21:51:28 -0500

I was surprised to see a photo of mine on this web page. The book seems interesting. How could I get a copy? And where did you get my photo? I remember sending it, and others, to a person doing a project on photography and gravestones. Was that you, all those years ago? I'm not at all concerned about the use of the picture (it's kind of neat, actually), just curious about the whole project.

I'll gladly purchase the book if you let me know how.

Thanks. Jim

From: James Tibensky --- 

Date: Sun, 7 Feb 1999 07:09:52 -0500

As a postmortem collector I enjoyed both the website and the book Secure the Shadow. Is should help anyone who doesn't understand the importance of postmortem photography and mourning customs of the past.

From: Debra --- 

Date: Sat, 6 Feb 1999 18:20:32 -0500

Dear Jay Ruby,

I am a grad. student (anth.)at West. Wash. Univ. in Bellingham, WA. I was assigned your web page in a visual anthropology class and am moved to thank you for addressing a rarely-discussed topic in such an interesting way. Good job! Though one views death with accompanying awkward emotions, exploring such a subject-- the portrayal of a loved ones' death by grieving survivors-- helps to provide a framework of 'critical thought' with which to process one's own complex feelings. Something like that! Thank you for the effort. Sincerely, Claudia Bro

From: Claudia Bro --- 

Date: Sat, 23 Jan 1999 22:54:18 -0500

I think this is a very tasteful page on a subject most people don't want to deal with. I'm doing a paper for my photography class on postmordem photography. The photos I find intresting not the death itself. This is good information

From: nikki oconnor --- 

Date: Sun, 3 Jan 1999 13:36:04 -0500

I enjoyed looking at your collection of prints in the round robin. The subject is very hard to find info on and I have been met with strange looks and no leads to follow. I also collect hair art which is the art of turning human hair of the deceased into wreaths and bouquets.

From: marlis --- 

Date: Mon, 28 Dec 1998 11:16:53 -0500


I found this site via PhotArchipelago.

In 1973 I was a student in your "Anthropology of Film" course at Temple University. I recall viewing ethnographic films, but nothing on the topic of Death.

I am currently writing a novel based in Civil War Times, concerning a linen weaver turned photographer who invents motion pictures (an idea based on a lecture by Tim Lyons, another Temple prof of the time.)

Margaretta, the heroine, dies in Chapter 3 due to melancholy after learning of the (falsely reported) death of her soldier-son. I will include the photographing of Margaretta.

Have you seen photographs of deceased persons taken in the vicinity of eastern Chester County (where Margaretta resided?)

Thanks for this very fine site.

Best Regards, Alan Kohn

Submitted by: alan kohn ( 

Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:33:53 -0500

I liked this page. We both have the same interest for this kind of picture. I just think, that you shoul have more pictures of dead girls in their coffins. If you have, I'd be glad if you send me somes. I'll be waiting for your answer Best Regards


Submitted by: Mansur ( 

Date: Sat, 24 Oct 1998 06:05:56 -0400

Mr. Ruby --

I came to this page by way of a concerted effort to find you after learning of your book (by way of Amazon and a comparison with Dr. Burns' "Sleeping Beauty.") When finaces permit, I intend to order your book (or at least put in an interlibrary loan request for it -- sorry. . .); it is certainly something of interest to me given its scholarly approach.

However, the reason I'm here is this: I was looking into copyright-free b&w photographs of a somewhat disturbing (to most) nature to use in an opening title montage for a "no-budget" shot-on-video horror film I'm doing called "Cremains." Most of the pictures would be quick, "subliminal" cuts of isolated sections from photographs, very abstract, but disturbing somehow . . .

My question is this: can you help me come across photos for use when you get a chance?

Thanks, and I do look forward to reading your book when I get a chance . . . Come to think of it, my father would be interested as well . . . if I could buy a copy from you signed to him for an Xmas gift, let me know ;-)

Steve Sessions,Biloxi, Mississippi

From: Steve Sessions --- 

Date: Mon, 12 Oct 1998 04:04:23 -0400

Courageous, moving and evocative. My original impression was that it was strange, just strange. After looking at the photos and reading the text, I now wish my cultural background had enabled me to request photographs of my family in death.

Submitted by: (Roy Tuckman) 

Date: Tue, 4 Aug 1998 12:01:29 -0400

I am very interested in you book. How can I get it? Sincerely CvW

From: Christiane von Wahlert --- 

Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998 14:09:34 -0400

I think it is a wonderful site with insightful information and haunting images. I, too, have had a morbid facination with death images and the rituals of death in American history for several years. As a researcher/historian, I have found the topics of death and mourning to be almost taboo in academic circles, unless researched from an archealogical viewpoint. But these are interdisciplinary topics at the very least and draw in aspects of religion, spirituality, folklore, materials culture, and sociology.

My husband and I are Civil War reenactors, and I have done a great deal of research and collecting on mourning rituals, 1840-1900. Several of the images shown on this site are similiar to the ones I have collected. They are beautiful, and represent a significant occurence in a family's collective history. Kudos for your efforts.

Karen Rae Mehaffey

Submitted by: (Karen Rae Mehaffey)

Date: Sat, 18 Jul 1998 19:27:33 -0400

Have you seen Wisconsin Death Trip? I've forgotten who it is by. Seems to fit your topic.

Submitted by: (Susan Kilgore)

Date: Thu, 18 Jun 1998 21:36:28 -0400

I have recently developed a sincere interest in photography, and I have done a lot to educate nyself about photography in the past six months. I will start my senior year in the fall at Saint James High School in Montgomery, Alabama. I have aquired a summer job at Robertson's Photography Studio in which I have learned a great deal, but I wish I could have the opportunity to learn a whole lot more. Though this seems like a premature interest, I am very devoted to the subject, and would appreciate you help. I am not online much, due to work -- so, if you would send me information to my home address: 3540 Carter Hill Rd.; Montgomery, Alabama 36111

Many Thanks, Jayme Tatum

Submitted by: (Jayme Tatum)

Date: Tue, 2 Jun 1998 13:26:17 -0400

Dear Mr. Ruby,

This is a beautiful and important work, and I appreciate your putting it up on the web. My only other exposure to post- mortem photography is _Sleeping Beauty_. I appreciate that your work doesn't abandon post-mortem photography in the Victorian age. The recent photos you include here did come as a shock to me, which in itself indicates how distanced our society is from death. Death is something that happened in the olden days, not now! Old tombstones are poignant, new ones, terrifying. However, I'd like to say that when my grandfather died in November, I wished I had the means and the grit to take his photograph, because he looked so very beautiful and at ease.

Thank you, and I look forward to picking up your book (when finances allow ... sigh ...)!

Submitted by: (Holly Wade Matter)

Date: Tue, 26 May 1998 05:08:59 -0400

this is cool

Submitted by: (Tom)

Date: Sun, 19 Apr 1998 10:26:21 -0400

I just finished reading your book. Thank you.

I am a 21year student at York University in Ontario. I am currently taking a visual sociology course with Jon Caulfield (SOSC 3720). I decided to study family funeral photographs for my winter terms project after a class we had on conventions of family photography.

I was interested in the motivations behind this type of picture taking (who did it & why), especially since it is practiced on both side of my family (Slovenian&Ukrainian).

Funeral photography has greatly intrigued me ever since my grandmother died two years ago.I wasn't aware of the practice unitl I saw my grandfather and uncle taking pictures at the wake, and at the rest of the funeral process.

In the months following my grandmother's death, my grandfather would often sit me down on the couch so we could look at the photos together (which he placed in a photo album). Along with other pictures of my grandmother taken while she was alive, I was surprised to see other funeral photos of relatives from overseas,(some 60yrs old) and others of my grandfather's friends in the album. I found it all very disturbing at first. No one else in my family ever talked about the photos.

At the beginning of this year, my aunt's father in-law past away suddenly and my father was the only one who took photos. He was later thanked for having remembered as everyone else had been too grief-stricken to think of it. While I still found this practice odd, my father assured me it was perfectly normal. I refuse to believe him because I had never heard of anyone doing this before my grandmother's death. And when I asked people I knew if they took funeral photos they just looked at me as if I were joking.

I had many strange reactions when I presented the proposal to the class and even had one girl refuse to look at the slides I had prepared for the seminar (pictured were from my own family's collection). I was also very discouraged when i tried to look for sources on the topic--I couldn't find any--until I found your book on the net, and was relieved to find it available in our library.

I would just like to thank you for providing such informative book and really shedding light onto this topic for me. I have very much enjoyed doing my project and your book was a great help to me.

Stephanie Kus

Submitted by: (Stephanie Kus)

Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 16:58:54 -0500

Prof. Ruby, As an art historian who works on early 19th c. images [the photography collections of Charles Darwin and Enrico Hillyer Giglioli] your 'Secure the Shadow' is most interesting. Thanks. Magda Vasillov

Submitted by: (Magda Vasillov)

Date: Fri, 27 Mar 1998 08:55:52 -0500 (EST)

I am doing a research paper on the idea that family photography is an index of our mortality. Specifically, I am applying the stages of grief to the viewing of our personal family history. Would you have any sites or know of any artists that are working in this vein. I am not focusing on the death photo, but how the family snap operates. Thanks, Enee

Submitted by: (Enee)

Date: Fri, 20 Feb 1998 04:04:38 -0500

An excellent text. I have found it very useful for those students who opt for a course I run on the nature of the photograph in relation to death imagery and its psychological impact.

Chris Webster

Lecturer in Fine Art

University of Wales


Submitted by: (Chris Webster)

Date: Tue, 20 Jan 1998 01:27:53 -0500

Hello. I was very interested to find your book this past year. I am a doctoral candidate at COncordia University in Montreal, Canada. I have a fine arts/visual culture background and am particularly interested in Medical Photography. I came to your work through that. I am writing a historiographical essay on medical historians' attempts to deal with photographic images in a critical and considered way. Many of them have turned to photo theory work in art history for a theoretical grounding. I would be interested to know if you pursued that at all in your own work. As a post script I also thought I would let you know that memorial photography also has some existence here in Canada. Several people I know have taken photographs for friends and relatives who were unable to be present.

Sincerely, Meredith Browne

Submitted by: (Meredith Browne)

Date: Thu, 15 Jan 1998 23:03:46 -0500

Thank you for your efforts in posting these images. This is a very powerful site. I'm not sure which are sadder, the Alice Liddell images, or the post-mortem portraits.

Ultimately, I think it is the Alice images, as they are pre- mortem tragedies. I speak as one who has actually capitalized on the Lewis Dodgson=pedophile subject as a humor contributor to Penthouse magazine. Seeing the Alice images, and analyzing the physical language they convey, I am compelled to recognize that, indeed, this child was probably victimized by the photographer. My rationale would probably require much more space than this format encourages, so I will refrain from getting into it. Whatever; your site is an aid to the thinking processes. Nobody ever said that thinking had to be fun. But it is always interesting. Jim Wilson

Submitted by: (Jim Wilson)

Date: Tue, 6 Jan 1998 23:32:25 -0500

As a student midwife I have been present at the birth, and death of tiny baby girls (twins). Polaroids were taken for the parents, and this stirred an interest in death photography. I now have some ideas and suggestions for parents should such tradegy occur again in my professional life, and I will know that those parents have some long lasting beautiful photos to remember their children by. You are an inspiration.

Submitted by: (frances)

Date: Thu, 1 Jan 1998 20:12:59 -0500

I loved visiting your site. I felt it was a great representation of the photographic post mortem. I liked the way you used the Southworth & Hawes image as a negative in the background. I think I may have owned that image about ten years ago. I did sell an S&H postmortem to a gentleman I believe lives in Virginia. I see I am visitor 211 to your web site. Oh yes, just in passing, Figure 64 (jay10.html) the cased image if it is in it's original case has a mat preserver and they were only used starting in 1847 thus your dating could start at 1847 instead of ca 1840. You probably knew that anyway and chose to explain that type of image started earlier. Best of luck for a great 1998 Matt

Submitted by: (Matt Isenburg)

Date: Wed, 5 Nov 1997 19:17:52 -0500

Do you have post-mortem photos of adults too? Is it usually easy to tell that the person was dead? In my genealogy research I was told that it was common to take "Family Reunion" photos at a funeral because it it might be the last time all of the children would be gathered at the same time. The deceased parent would be sitting amidst the children for the photo. I've never seen one of these photos, but I always wonder when I find a new family group picture, if one of the people in the group was dead.

Submitted by: (Sue)

Date: Fri, 31 Oct 1997 04:48:43 -0500

a life saver of a otherwise painfully incomplete seminar just filled out. very interesting but no colour was a shame.It would have been interesting to have a look into the art world and death photography with images by such artists as andre serrano etc. it.

Submitted by: (samuel bartle)

Date: Thu, 25 Sep 1997 12:07:53 -0400


I saw your page and like it.

Could you send me e-mail with some other photos which is in your book but not on web site ?

I just cannot buy the book.

thanks a lot.

Submitted by: (I. Vaispaper)

Date: Thu, 11 Sep 1997 10:27:46 -0400

I'll look for your book in the looks very interesting. My first reaction was, "What a weird thing to do..take pictures of dead people and their funerals, etc." But the next voice in my head said, "Oh yeah? Then why did you take those pictures of Floyd Collins grave?'I have several late 1800's photos of children in the family who were taken to photographers because the children were expected to die from various ailmnets, and the family wanted to remember they. In one particular case,quite fortunate for me, the child lived, grew up & had children & grandchildren, one of whom was me. I'll let you know what I think of the entire book if I can locate it. Bye.

Submitted by: (Patricia Cronin) 

Date: Sat, 13 Sep 1997 19:54:24 -0400

A brilliant book on what most people conceive to be the most frightening subject - death. The book is a reminder that it is important for the soul to mourn and there should be no shame in it. Thank you for not shying away from the subject.

Submitted by: (iretta)

Date: Thu, 11 Sep 1997 10:27:49 -0400

I'll look for your book in the looks very interesting. My first reaction was, "What a weird thing to do..take pictures of dead people and their funerals, etc." But the next voice in my head said, "Oh yeah? Then why did you take those pictures of Floyd Collins grave?'I have several late 1800's photos of children in the family who were taken to photographers because the children were expected to die from various ailmnets, and the family wanted to remember they. In one particular case,quite fortunate for me, the child lived, grew up & had children & grandchildren, one of whom was me.I'll let you know what I think of the entire book if I can locate it. Bye.

Submitted by: (Patricia Cronin)

Date: Wed, 4 Jun 1997 15:46:22 -0400

Stunningly beautiful and creepily odd.

Submitted by: (Ian Costello)

Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 01:15:27 -0500

I am very interested in Victorian embalming and funeral lore. I am currently working on a screen treatment which involves the custom of photographing the dead and would like more information on your book. Please contact me at my e-mail address, Please feel free to make any suggestions for research. Thank you.

Submitted by: (Francesca Miller)

Date: Sat, 22 Mar 1997 15:16:54 -0500

Wow! I've been scavenging tintypes & old photos for a few years now & have never noticed dead people among them. Now I have to go look closer at the ones I have. Maybe they are dead, or were dead then, after all. Spooky!

Submitted by: (Dominique)

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 20:36:53 -0500

Very moving photos.

Submitted by: (Leilani) 

Date: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 04:38:33 -0500

I think it's interesting what photographs can do on the subject of death. Eschatologically speaking, I think that photographs can provide us with an insight on death, particularly when speaking of what photos offer us that differs with textual or 'real-life' (motion-time oriented) dealings with the subject. For example, the idea that the picture, just as any picture, represents a moment in time, could we make an analogy saying that our very lives are similar to a picture in the span of the universe's life? Or can we say, perhaps, that the picture itself, were it to be pondered completely, could represent the entire life of that person, or of people in general? What can be said about a picture of death besides that it reminds us of our mortality and that we ourselves could be saying 'cheese' for that very same type of photo? I think it's a rather wonderful thought, don't you?

Submitted by: (Jon Nystrom) 

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 09:08:37 -0500

A most interesting site. I am currently researching a documentary film for British television and would be grateful for any information relating to images of death in photographyin the United States or elsewhere. Please e-mail me at " or Fax: 44 131 557 3852

Submitted by: (Robin MacPherson) 

Date: Fri, 28 Feb 1997 15:07:04 -0500

Sounds *fascinating*! I've taken a few photos of loved ones just after death. Also working on a book for HarperCollins called (I hate the title, but relish the exposure) The Pagan Book of Living and Dying (formerly published by Reclaiming Collective as

We should keep in contact.

Best to you and your explorations, Macha

Submitted by: (M. Macha NightMare) 

Date: Sat, 22 Feb 1997 17:04:11 -0500

Glad to see you one the net. I own the book. I am a photographer dealing with issues of death. If you have any more information let me know.

Submitted by: (amanda gruhn) 

Date: Mon, 10 Feb 1997 16:04:41 -0500

Fascinating. We have a small number of postmortem photographs in our collection here, mostly from the 19th century and mostly of children. I do not believe that the practice was as widespread as it appears to be in the USA. Photography has an important place in Maori funerals (tangi) however. The deceased lies at his/her home for some time before burial, and it is common for photographs of deceased relatives to be placed around the coffin, and for the coffin itself to be photographed.

We do have an unidentified carte-de-visite negative dating from the 1870s, showing a man on his sick bed. He is obviously very ill indeed; his mouth is hanging open, his eyelids are drooping, and his face is very flushed. His hair has been brushed back from his face, and some attempt has been made to make him presentable. It seems to me that this is a farewell portrait of a man whose death is seen to be imminent.

Submitted by: (John Sullivan) 

Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1997 23:31:08 -0500

Hi-- just browsing when I came across this site-- I have a copy of "Secure the Shadow"-- I really love it, also have "Sleeping Beauty" and several other books about death and memorial photography. It's a very interesting subject and I hope to continue res

Submitted by: (Colleen) 

Date: Fri, 27 Dec 1996 13:48:10 -0500

Became fascinated (and now obsessed!) with this subject matter, along with "memento mori" after losing my husband in 1985. The usual genre of "therapy" books bored me witless and did not thing to assuage my grief. As a matter of fact, the mourning ritua

Submitted by: (Maureen DeLorme) 

Date: Sat, 7 Dec 1996 20:42:07 -0500

Dear Jay, I could not access the photos in the Secure the Shadow gallery. Please check and let me know when they might be available.

I remember as a child (I'm now 44) a few family photos (circa 1920-30's) of funerals, with the family around a closed casket. But I do not remember photos made of the deceased in any manner. However, I will check with my parents and see if they have any. If so, I would be glad to share them with you.

I'm a professional photographer (advertising, corporate, and editorial)and have written for Shutterbug magazine. I am presently working on a book project on cemetaries. I plan on reading your book. Thanks for your efforts.

Stephen Greenfield 4718 Pebble Brook Circle Cleveland, TN 37312

Submitted by: (Stephen Greenfield) 

Date: Wed, 4 Dec 1996 17:35:45 -0500

I congratulate you on your book and Web page. I now must get a copy. This seems like a good companion to the "Wisconsin Death Trip." When you speak of Americans, photography and death are you referring mainly to white americans? I have photos of a Portuguese cemetary outside of Hilo where the tombstones contains photos of the deceased. This also true of small Hispanic cemetaries in New Mexico. Here in SF, a traditional Chinese funeral is a march with a band and a car that carries a large photo of the deceased. quite interesting to compare it to a New Orleans funeral parade. You've picked a fascinating subject.

Submitted by: (Ilona Kay Gebhard)

Date: Thu, 7 Nov 1996 18:30:11 -0500

My family has always taken pictures at funerals and as a kid I thought that was crazy. Now that Im older, I still see alot of other people doing the same thing. I guess we werent weird after all.

Submitted by: (Wendy) 

Date: Sat, 2 Nov 1996 18:02:52 -0500


I thouroughly enjoyed your site, due to its comprehensive overview of the beauty of death images in photography. I would like to offer to you space in my current project, a gothic/darkwave/underground magazine, so perhaps you would like to submit something. There is no charge for submission, but i do not pay anyone, since this project is non-profitable. I love artwork, poetry, fiction, etc, as well. Let me know if you would like to send stuff in to be published in issue # 2 of The Corpse In The Cupboard (the name of the publication). Thank you very much ~Zillah

The Corpse In The Cupboard P O BOX 942 Benicia CA 94510

Submitted by: (Zillah) 

Date: Mon, 28 Oct 1996 14:16:03 -0500

I have always believed, as per my upbringing, that photographs of the dead are not respectful of their memory. However, I found this book interesting, although the images made me uneasy. I think the book takes a proper approach to post-mortem photography. Thank you---Josette Walston

Submitted by: (Josette Walston) 

Date: Fri, 11 Oct 1996 21:14:26 -0400

Definitely a heart-wrenching site. These photos allow you to feel the sadness of the situation.

Submitted by: (Susan) 

Date: Tue, 8 Oct 1996 13:29:30 -0400

I find the subject of photographing the dead fascinating. There is another book called: THE HARLEM BOOK OF THE DEAD; which contains some of the most beautiful, moving photographs that I have seen. As for the negative responses that you received from va


Date: Wed, 4 Sep 1996 09:41:10 -0400

Interesting page and gallery,although the images were domestic and personal, they did not appear as moments in a linear progression. Well chosen images. Could you give me any pointers towards any journals or books, or any of your own published work relating to photography and temporality, or C19 spiritualist portraiture? I would be very grateful for any help you could give. I am a third year Fine Art student, currently researching my dissertation.

Submitted by: (Robin Bale) 

Date: Fri, 23 Aug 1996 19:14:04 -0400

Gave it to my girlfriend, she loved it. Also to let you know this website helped introduce me to your book and I wouldn't have known about it otherwise.

Submitted by: (chris groening) 

Date: Wed, 14 Aug 1996

Jay, amazing to stumble onto this publicity from my office over the Port of Dakar. Marilyn and I will be looking for the book when we get back to the States in Nov. Remembering you fondly. Gary Merritt

Submitted by: (Gary Merritt) 

Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 01:28:46 -0400

Every so many years, I am asked to take photos of all the deseased relatives grave sites, most recently for my mother and grandmother, I was curious to know how you can be sure of the fact that many of these pictures contain dead people. The older ones, (ie twins, baby..) I could not tell if they were living or not, unless I was told.

Submitted by: (Lori) 

Date: Tue, 16 Jul 1996 11:43:58 -0400

I held back from photographing my deceased aunt in thoughtfulness of the family--and discovered that her dau hter had taken a picture after all to send our great-aunt who\ was unable to attend the funeral and was comforted by the picture.

Submitted by: (judy humphrey) 

Date: Fri, 5 Jul 1996 22:01:53 -0400

Very Nice! My parents who are in their late 70's always photographed their dead relatives.I thougt this so strange. Your book demonstrates that this was not such an unusual practice.But i still won't like coming across those photos in the family album!Is the book available in bookstores? I'd like to buy a copy.

Submitted by: (Crystal.) 

Date: Fri, 21 Jun 1996 13:51:01

At Gunderson High School in San Jose, CA, we will be teaching an American Studies core course for Juniors which integrates Photography, U.S. History and American Lit. After Sept. 1, 1996, we will be asking students to search for photo history info on the net. If you have any suggestions please contact us.

Thank you

Submitted by: (Shelby Graham) 

Date: Thu, 6 Jun 1996 23:47:54 -0400

I love "Secure the Shadow". The pictures are very sad and very captivating. They cause all sorts of different emotions in me. I want to thank you for a job well done. I enjoyed the site so much that I have included a link to it on my web site,

Typhoid Mary's Asylum


in the "All Things Dark and Gruesome" section.

Thank you, once again.

Submitted by: (Typhoid Mary)

Date: Tue, 4 Jun 1996 01:45:10 -0400

How did you decide to write of book of this kind? Do you know of Dr. Stanley Burns' work "Sleeping Beauty" or "Forgotten Marriage"?



Date: Mar 1996 18:51:15

I found your book fascinating, as it covered a topic I have long found interesting, but much neglected.

I would like to present a lecture on the topic to our local historical society this October. May I use your book as a resource? Also, can you suggest a source for slides of appropriate photographs?

Many thanks.

Submitted by: (Michael Procino) 

Date: Mon, 11 Mar 1996 23:01:41

I was looking for some other art and stumbled across your death photographs at Zpub. Very interesting and dignified. If you are not aware of the poem "Death Will Come And It Will Have Your Eyes" by Cesar Pavese, I strongly recommend that you look for it and read it. It is an extraordinarily powerful and also dignified poem. You can find it posted at my homepage, address below. I think it would be very moving to have the poem posted next to some of your photographs, but I need hardly add that this is just my opinion, and I do not deign to design your pages for you. Hope you like it. --

Chase Kimball (, nom de plum "Lord Brancaster" 

Date: Sat, 10 Feb 1996 19:03:42

This is a very interesting and disturbing site. I am working on a collection of history links for my own web site, and have put a link to this site there. If you have any problems with this, please email me, and I will remove it. It is so rare to find something as completely unexpected as this on the web.

Submitted by: (zoe) 

Date: Sat, 13 Jan 1996 12:30

I enjoyed reading about your book and have spent hours wandering around cemeteries of southern indiana photographing ornate tombstones by italian immigrants in the 1930's...i found it fascinating

Submitted by: (sandy ) 

Date: Fri, 12 Jan 1996 10:08:59

Dear Jay,

In the picture gallery, you have a photo (fig. 64) of a lady dressed in a dark gown. The dress is long waisted, which is typical of the late 1840's, although generally, dresses fit quite a bit more snugly during that period. The bonnet and hairstyle that she wears were high style in the 1850's.

The material of her dress has an appearant sheen to it, which is not typical of mourning clothing of this period. She is also wearing something (?) which is not black around her neck. This also is not typical of deep mourning. This leads me to believe that either the dress is one which was never intended as a mourning garment, but was being used as such, having been dyed black by the wearer, or the dress is not mourning at all, rather, it may simply just be a dark/black dress, of a solid color. This was fashionable during the mid 19th century, as Queen Victoria went into mourning.

Thank you for assembling such an interesting group of pages! (I'm involved in Living History, and we really enjoy it when resources/information is available!)

Leann W. Thompson

Submitted by: (Leann W. Thompson) 

Date: Thu, 11 Jan 1996 11:25:04


Excellent site! I'm especially impressed with your "Secure the Shadow" collection. I'd like to add it to my site, Black and White World.

B&W World ( is a monthly-updated list of links to the best black-and-white photography resources on the Web. You site would be included in the February 1 update.

Please feel free to check out my site, and let me know if the link is ok.


Submitted by: (Mason Resnick) 

Date: Thu, 21 Dec 1995 12:16:28

Your book sounds fascinating! Two years ago I read an article in Art Forum on post-mortem photography and the psychology behind the image of yourself that you will never see, and I'm glad to see a text exploring it. Death is too often ignored for being "unpleasant," but how we deal with death says volumes about our culture. I remember when my mother died at home, my father had his picture taken with her (she died at home.) I'm still not sure I understand why he did it, but it seemed right to him. I don't even know what happened to the picture because I never saw it developed. It must have been a tradition in his family, because the first picture I ever saw of his mother was of her lying in state in her coffin. I look forward to reading your book, and if you have any information that might help me understand my father's pictures, I'd appreciate it.

Submitted by: (Acacia Warwick) 

Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 10:27:48

this is great stuff. i didn't quite understand if the book is only on the internet or if there is a "real" copy of it. if there is such a thing i would be very interested in obtaining it. how and where can i do this if possible? the porfessor i work with here at the university of oklahoma, dr. ronald schleifer, has written a book called "rhetoric and death" that you may be interested in. at any rate please write back and tell me more about your book. thanks.

Submitted by: (randy potts) 

Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 11:37:30

I'm actually looking for a picture I saw in a book a long time ago. The picture is of a girl that has just commited suicide by jumping off a building. The picture envolves her on a car and on the hood and window of the car you can see the reflexion of the empire state building. I know it sounds a little distastefull, but it's actually well-done black and white c.1950 If you know of a publication that contains this or where I might search... please let me know. -Dave

submitted by: (David Lemons) 

Date: Sat, 18 Nov 1995 15:07

i thinked it sucked

Submitted by: dtruckner (david truckner) 

Date: Fri, 17 Nov 1995 14:12

I'm working on a research project about the changing faces of death and the funeral rites in America over it's history and I was happy to find all the information you have here in this niche. Thank you. If you have any suggested readings on this subject, please send me the titles and the like and i'll look into them.


intrigued, Lisa

Submitted by: (Lisa Frei) 

Date: Sun, 12 Nov 1995 22:25

I would appreciate a link to my school, the National Academy of Mortuary Science Thanks- Dr. Duke Kloss 1-800-753-5977

(Grad of Fork Union Military Academy, just down the road from Charlottesville)

Submitted by: (Dr. Duke Kloss) 

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 08:48:38

Please send me some information so I can purchase this book. I can use this book in my history class. thanks

Submitted by: davisk@email.SPJC.CC.FL.US (Kevin) 

Date: Tue, 31 Oct 1995 19:16:33 -0500

Hi Jay! I saw your book, Fixing Shadows, at a local book store and was facinated with the images you collected as well as the text.As a collector of old photos, I appreciate the amount of research involved and your love of history is apparent. It's added to my Christmas list!

Submitted by: (Georgene Bergstrom) 

Date: Sun, 29 Oct 1995 20:18:07 -0500

facinating, completely...

Submitted by: (Zillah) 

Date: Tue, 24 Oct 1995 15:29:13 -0400

Thanks for such a beautiful representation of an iimportant, although neglected area of study. I'll be linking to Fixing Shadows and especially Securing Shadows for our Sociology Web server.

Submitted by: (Christina Myers) 

The Wilna Ghetto - Vorobeichik (Moi Ver)

Date: Tue, 7 Nov 2000 11:34:45 -0500

Comments about Wilna's material (blue.unix-ds8s)

Wilno, then part of north-eastern Poland, was NOT in Galicia. Galicia was the name used also for South Poland and cities like Krakow (Cracow) or Lwow.



Submitted by: Kris (

Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 08:24:21 -0500

Bravo for posting Vorobeichik's material.

Submitted by: Nissan N. Perez (

Date: Fri, 23 Oct 1998 13:10:54 -0400

I love many of these photos. My people are the jews of the Caucaus, Romania, Bokhara, Ukraine, and Estonia. Yes my Estonian grandmother was a survivor. But she got out very early. Like 1910 maybe. Any how I enjoy seeing these pics although they are strange to me. I have many old (mid to late 1800's) photos from my paternal grandfathers family in Romania. Ditto for my grandmother in Baku,Georgia, Azerbaijan. Let me know if you want to see them.

From: Daniel Comarovschi --- 

Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 04:45:50 -0400

Because you asked for comments I will share with you some of my thoughts about the photos. Before looking at them I read the introduction and realized that I had some great grandparents who lived in Wilna around this time period; I hoped to see pieces of their faces and understand what led them to immigrate and how this country must have seemed to them. For awhile I noticed how similar the doors and streets were to those in Another Way of Telling and then I realized how differently the people were portrayed. As said in the newspaper article there are virtually no happy moments, as if the author refused to admit that people had any relationships with those around them, as if the inhabitants were never between the ages of ten and a grizzled 60, as if they never gathered for celebrations or funerals, as if they never went inside from the hard grit of the street, as if they made and owned nothing but rags and books. I saw how this must have appealed to the German publishers in the depths of post-WWI depression - to see people more miserable than they were. I could see the swarming rats portrayed as Jews in a recent documentary on Nazi propaganda and understood how easy that would be to believe if they only walked down a street and didn't notice that, with only one exception, everyone wore well-mended clothes. I suspect this book says more about the photographer and perhaps me the viewer than it does the subjects. I understood the harshness of the environment and its toll on the physical but could not see its effect on the personality. I found myself desperately seeking something decorative or hopeful and found only the curly metal rails, the checked clothe of a woman who resembles my greatgrandmother now, the halfhidden smile of a young mother. There is a great deal left unsaid in this book about how these people came to be here and how they can fit so many layers of clothes and how they get any food but what is less than unsaid is how they can tolerate this lifestyle with no apparent home or individuality or familial relationship or rites of passage. Where I had hoped to learn more about my ancestors I now find myself knowing less; what I had assumed to exist I now find conspicuously absent in my mind. With such a time and weather hardened shell on both people and things it is easy to believe that there is no interior but I refuse to accept that Vorobeichic's portrayal is all that exists. I don't feel like he knew these people or understood where they found their will to continue. Even his titles for the pages rarely name the people except to describe what age or height of a Jew they are. Streets have more names than people. I'm dismayed at his callous, cursory treatment and have realized the importance of drawing conclusions only after examining the evidence because I suspect that he began his 'documentary' long after he knew what he thought the inhabitants life contained. This is less a documentary on Wilna than a documentary on his passage through it. I find myself perplexed and lost and not quite sure this was the sort of reaction "before leaving, please comment" warranted but I think I have found a new version of my ancestral "truth" from both these pictures and having to write my reaction. I am grateful to the photographer and you for posting his book that I have had that opportunity. I suppose that is all I have to say, particularly since its 4:30 am and after a day of fasting for Yom Kippur and that, for certain, has had its influence. Sarah Robbins

From: Sarah Robbins --- 

Date: Sat, 5 Sep 1998 14:29:11 -0400

I'm new at this, but I came to this site searching for information on Battermang in the State of Wilna, Russia. This is where I believe my grandfather came from, as stated on his honorable discharge papers from the army. He apparently left Russia to escape the prison sentence of consignment in the army. If you could direct me to any appropriate web pages, it would be appreciated. Thanks

Submitted by: Arnold Cramer ( 

Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 19:26:50

i love your page. I'm doing research on someone who disappeared in the holocaust so "ive been looking at lots of pages. Your's is very haunting

Submitted by: (E. A. Puetz) 

Date: Fri, 13 Oct 1995 18:54:23 -0400

Somehow this feeling I now have is beyond any written or spoken words You could say that these photographs have touched me and very deeply so.

Well, I think I should thank you.

Submitted by: (Juhani Luhtanen) 

Ethno Photography

Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 09:13:36

I ran a search via "Alta Vista" using Casamance as a key word. (It is a great way to find things on the Internet:)

That's how I found your photographs of the Joola. Thank you for making them available. I was in Affiniam-Boutem in 1990, and just finished a dissertation on my work there.

If you are interested in links to African Studies sources, I have a "subject alcove" in our library's pages:

I just recently added some information about some local art exhibitions.

Dan Reboussin

Submitted by: (Daniel Reboussin)