SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
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About the Photos

Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Death Mask: 1908

Death Mask: 1908

New York circa 1908. Making a plaster death mask. View full size. 8x10 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress.

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This has got to be my all-time favorite submission, if not one of the neatest photos I've ever seen. Aside from the very intimate view of something that most of us would otherwise never see being done, the photo itself has so much going on. I love the looks of respectful concentration on the men's faces, and how they have their own brand of serenity amid a completely different type of "peace."

The other death masks in the background, sitting in neat rows on the shelves and slightly out of focus, add the slightest touch of the macabre. Well done GGB and well done team Shorpy!

Don't Move

I tried to make a "life mask" once in an art's not easy. Of course it helps if the subject holds very still. The board supporting the plaster looks like a good technique - we had the subjects lie on their backs and used soda straws in the nostrils so we didn't end up with an accidental death mask.

Wikipedia article.

Smells like it, too

I worked for Unclaimed Property for the State of California, and we got one of these death masks in one of the safe deposit boxes. Not only does it look like death, it smells like death too. Fascinating, but nasty.

Death Mask

Wow, I always wanted to know how they did this.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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