The Funeral of Tilda Aronson

American, 1901
Photographic print on cardboard
8 ⅞ × 10 ⅞ in.
Kenyon College, Blick-Harris Study Collection, 2015.195

The Funerals of Tilda Aronson & Anders Gustav Aronson

Anders Gustav Aronson and Katarina Mathilda Carlsten were a husband and wife who lived in Duluth, Minnesota after emigrating from Sweden. Each of their funerals were photographed after they died—Katarina (who went by Tilda) died in 1901, and Anders in 1908. Both of these images are representative of a shifting sentiment seeking more of an impersonal distance from the dead, which was largely caused by the movement of death into public spaces such as funeral homes and churches. This meant that images of caskets became the new standard over lifelike post mortem portraits: rather than portraying intimate familial closeness, “sleeping” photographs such as Anders’ focused as much on the ceremony of the funeral itself as the individual being mourned. Flower arrangements became a new popular material symbol of life, serving as a decorative barrier to distract viewers from the physicality of their deceased loved ones.

What do you notice about these images that play into the visual spectacle of funerals?