Death Portrait Of A Child Essay

2023 words - 8 pages

Death Portrait of a Child The photograph Death Portrait of a Child was made by German photographer Hugo Brehme. Brehme was born in Germany in 1882 and died in Mexico in 1954. He was considered one of the outstanding photographers of Mexico. Around 1905 when he was in his twenties, Brehme arrived in Mexico to photograph the complex and fascinating country. He studied photography in Germany and brought a pictorialist's eye and a complete command of his expensive equipment. He would not have known that he would become a major influence on generations of Mexican photographers, starting with Manuel Alvarez Bravo. He would not have known that he would live in Mexico almost all of his life and even become a Mexican citizen shortly before his death. Nor did he ever dream that his work would become known all over the world.Brehme considered himself an artist even though debates at the time concerned over whether or not photography is an art. In 1912, Brehme established his first studio at la San Juan de Letran No.3 in Mexico City. In 1920 he established a studio at Avenida Cinco de Mayo No.27, and called it "Fotografia Artistica Hugo Brehme". It was in this studio that Manuel Alvarez Bravo worked and learned the fundamentals of photography.The photograph entitled Death Portrait of a Child by Brehme is a photograph of a dead child being held by two women, probably the child's mother and grandmother. This type of photograph was called a daguerreotype. The death portrait, especially one of a dead child, was a memorial. If the daguerreotype served as an accurate portrait of the soul, of a person's essence, it was doubly effective, with its accuracy and haunting depth, a way of keeping the memory of a dead child fresh, or of bringing the dead child back to life.Death portraits, like the one presented here, did not just depict the dead, but also included, or even focused on the living mourners. These portraits didn't just focus on the death, but the process of mourning itself. Daguerreotypes like these were not popular at first, but became popular later in the century. At least two women in the 1840's posed in daguerreotypes with their dead children; and by the end of the century, this had become a convention. The process had come full circle; the photograph now documented a convention in which it had a part.Why did parents, children, and spouses, grieving the dead, spend the money and take the time to have a daguerreotype made of their deceased family member? The answer is both in the conventions and views of the daguerreotype, and in the mid-nineteenth century conventions of death and its representation. The daguerreotype was an effective memorial. Imprinting, as it did, the light off a person, it seemed to include a part of his or her physical being, one that nearly captured the life of death.An 1849 article in Godey's Lady's Book remarked on the rapidly proliferating urban daguerreotypist's "busy at work in catching "˜the shadow' ere the...

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