Post-mortem photography was a popular way to preserve the memory of a deceased loved one during the Victorian era. While these images may seem strange in modern times, they were taken to commemorate the life and legacy of a loved one.
According to the Berkeleyan, "In London, in 1830, the average life span for middle to upper-class males was 44 years, 25 for tradesman and 22 for laborers. Fifty-seven of every 100 children in working class families were dead by five years of age." Death was everywhere.
Often times, family members would sit for the photograph with their deceased loved one to prop him or her up. Photographs were expensive and scarce; some of these portraits may be the only photograph ever taken of the deceased.
During the Victorian era, taking a photograph took several minutes. As such, you can often tell who is deceased in these photos by their clear focus in comparison to their living, breathing family members.
The photographs were used as a keepsake and memory of a lost loved one. It's a difficult thing, though, to pose with your deceased child, as can be seen with this mourning couple and their dead infant.