Parental Grief and Photographic Remembrance: A Historical Account of Undying Love

Felicity T. C. Hamer
Concordia University, Canada

Product Details
17 Feb 2020
Emerald Publishing Limited
144 pages - 129 x 198mm
Sharing Death Online
Winner of the 2020 Stand-Out Graduate Research Award

Winner of the August 2020 Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC) Prix Relève étoile Paul-Gérin-Lajoie

Photographic portraits of those who have passed have the potential to become valuable sites of remembrance. Across North America and Western Europe, parents are increasingly unfamiliar with death; lacking the rituals and tools that have historically eased the bereavement process. This book shines a light on how semi-private social media groups enable the bereaved parents of today to navigate their grief in the modern world. The author explores how creative, and sometimes contested, incorporations of photography within these online spaces demonstrate a revival and renegotiation of historic practices. By shining a light on recurrent tendencies and their evolution within new media this book offers an opportunity to observe the complex relationships grief can prompt some individuals to form with the portraits of absent loved ones. 

As social networking sites continue to enable the reinsertion of death within the social realm, the author looks ahead: might we begin to see a revival and increased openness towards end-of-life, post-mortem and funerary photography? As bereavement increasingly becomes something communicated in an online context, what new types of embellishments to the photographic portrait might we encounter?
Introduction. Something to Remember Them By
Chapter 1. In Their Image 
Chapter 2. Photographic Reunion 
Chapter 3. Embellishing Trace 
Conclusion. In Loving Memories
Felicity Hamer is a PhD candidate in the Communication Studies Program at Concordia University in Montreal. Her research focuses on memory and imagination through photography; bereavement and photography; emotional engagement with photographs; paranormal, supernatural, magical and miraculous imagery; and intersections of religion and photography.
Parents have used photographs to remember their deceased children from the 1840s to the present. This highly illustrated book uniquely traces how these remembrance photos of children are specific to their time, yet also share commonalities across time. The text draws on personal experience, wide reading, and many photographs. - Tony Walter, Emeritus Professor of Death Studies, University of Bath, UK.

Parental Grief and Photographic Remembrance is a deeply thoughtful, deeply careful, extended probe of the full swath of intimacy between photography and death. This intimacy cannot be contained within, say, the single critical trope that sees the photograph as a small premonition of everyone’s death. ("He is alive and he is going to die," as Roland Barthes famously stated in Camera Lucida). Rather, Felicity Tsering Chödron Hamer connects a brilliant set of images with the stunning affect produced by the personal loss, itself, of loved ones, and traces a clear genealogy from nineteenth century pre-and-post mortem portraits to contemporary social media posts. Alert to the creative potential of photography in the work of mourning and remembrance, she expands our understanding of the photographic process and its scholarship. This is a book of many levels, all of them worthwhile. - Laura Wexler, Professor of American Studies, Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Co-Chair of the Women’s Faculty Forum, and Founder and Director of the Photographic Memory Workshop at Yale University, USA.

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