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Hi everyone, I'm doing a PhD in Australia on irony and death in photography and I'm trying to place when irony was first used intentionally by an author/photographer in the depiction of death, real or pretend, does anyone have any ideas? Jay Ruby's book 'Secure the Shadow' has a self-portrait of Sarah Bernhardt in a coffin where she is parodying mortuary/funerary photographs and that was taken in the 1870s, but if anyone has come across anything from around that time I'd be soooo appreciative. Cheers - Emma

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Hippolyte Bayard posed himself as drowned man ( Oct. ,1840 ) as a political protest:

"The corpse which you see here is that of M. Bayard, inventor of the process that has just been shown to you. As far as I know this indefatigable experimenter has been occupied for about three years with his discovery. The Government, which has been only too generous to Monsieur Daguerre, has said it can do nothing for Monsieur Bayard, and the poor wretch has drowned himself. Oh the vagaries of human life...! "

SUPER! that's excellent cheers! It could be a Joel-Peter Witkin, there really is nothing new anymore.
The Death of Chatterton, by James Robinson, 1859, features death although I suspect that there was no intended irony.
great, that's really helpful too michael that kind of referential play might just be a different kind of irony and whether or not it was deemed irony then might just need some research on my behalf, but it certainly misfired if the law got involved ^_^

As a general question leading on from Mark's suggestion - do any of you think that Bayard's could be the first intentionally ironic photo ever - death or no death?
Already touched on by Mark (Jacobs), but this recent article in the Guardian newspaper (Photography's bodies of evidence : Ever since its inception, the mortal ambivalence of photography has been evident – as has its propensity for deception) might be a useful read too:
wow guys thanks for all this! The PhD will write itself at this rate, certainly the first chapter ^_^ the article is really interesting Michael (Wong) thanks, I am concentrating more on contemporary uses of irony in photographing death so that's helpful too, if you're interested yourself there is a pretty funky/bizarre/wild/sickening German book called Darkside II: Photographic power and violence, disease and death photographed (2009) by Urs Stahel (editor). i think its based on an exhibition but the essays and photos are pretty compelling.
There is an entire sub-genre of images of medical school students being photographed while clowning around with cadavers and skeletons. Most of these seem to date from about 1880-1920. I do recall reading about an exhibition of such images several years ago but don't recall any other details or whether the exhibition made it into book form. The two attached images are from my small collection.
You might want to check the Burns Archive or Dr. Burns books for additional images.
Sounds like Darkside II will make an interesting & compelling (but ghastly !) bedtime read, lol. Just so happen to stumble upon the newspaper article - glad to hear that it is of some help to you as I'm no expert in this field ! Do keep us inform of progress through this blog and all the very best with your PhD ....
You're right on the money there Michael, its certainly not something you'd want to look at while eating... although maybe it could become the new fad diet - you never know.
That's great again Mark - Cheers! thanks for the pics too, the burns archive website doesn't have a great deal. Really funky images in terms of performance and play for the camera. Do you think its in the book that was done with Joel-Peter Witkin, it sounds like his bag? I'll order all of the books with burns archive pics into the library anyway (the library will have the most fantastic skitz) and i'll keep you posted as to what is in what if you like.
Any ideas regarding whether or not the Bayard hissy-fit pic was the first photograph to use irony in general, despite death as the locating metaphor/theme? either way, it all proves quite interesting in terms of the contextual history of what I'm looking at. Interestingly for me as a side bit, i think Hip's image says something about the assumption of photographic truth right from the get go, if he felt that on the back he had to sign his own death notice so the irony and 'fakeness' in the image would be understood.


Dr Stephen Hobson (Australia based) has written eloquently on topics surrounding this; There are important visual contributions from Mexican photographer Pedro Meyer and many others on the  website (search "death")

cheers that's great i'll check it out 

Piers Rawson said:


Dr Stephen Hobson (Australia based) has written eloquently on topics surrounding this; There are important visual contributions from Mexican photographer Pedro Meyer and many others on the  website (search "death")

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