chapter  14
14 Pages

Immortality Work: Photographs as Memento Mori


Perhaps photography is best understood as the return of the departed. It is a powerful medium haunted by a pre-modern spectral world that lives on in a post-modern electronic universe. (McGrath, 2005, p. 56)

In the age of mechanical reproduction, an absence can be replaced by a visual image. Photographs then become particularly precious residues because they can carry a freight of actuality. is gives all portrait photographs from the past a sharp poignancy for anyone who pays them serious attention, even if they are strangers. All photographs must become memento mori (Barthes, 1981).