43 Reasons Why The Past Is Creepy, As Shared By This Online Group
With the first photographs being produced over a century ago, the world captured in them looked very different from now. We can feel slightly disconnected from it and imagine we’re looking into a strange reflection of the past instead.
r/OldSchoolCreepy is perhaps a portal into it. People can share their vintage photography on anything from the primitive Halloween costumes of yesteryear, to Victorian-era portraits where something doesn’t feel quite right. Maybe it’s the grainy, black and white prints that provide a certain ghostly quality and make us so uneasy. There's plenty of strange contraptions and gruesome horror imagery too.
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Martin Luther King Jr. With His Son, Pulling Up A Burnt Cross From The Front Lawn Of His Atlanta Home, April 1960
With so many photos being shared across the internet every day, it’s easy to take photography for granted and harder to remember just how far the technique has come. Each new smartphone boasts another million pixels and multiple lenses to capture life in stunning detail. Being able to fit all this technology in your pocket makes a stark difference from the clunky contraptions of old.
Not to mention, images are captured almost instantaneously now. Whilst Polaroid cameras first became famous due to their ability to print an image and develop it in under a minute, this is nothing compared to the split second that it takes a microprocessor to do the same digitally.
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Of course, technology is built on the imagination and creativity of previous generations. Without their innovation, we’d never be able to enjoy all the fun that photography brings us today. And whilst the digital format is now most common, we owe everything to analog photography and film.
With only improvements in the lenses, film, and capturing process, the methods behind it remained unchanged for a few generations. It’s what makes the vintage photos of the past look so vivid and real, even if “vintage” has become associated with aesthetic qualities nowadays.
Department Store Wax Mannequins Melting During A Heatwave In 1929
Whilst we can make high-quality images at the touch of a button, there’s nothing quite like the intangible quality that analog brings. Maybe digital is just too clean and realistic, and that’s why almost all camera apps will have a number of filters to bring a little character to our shots.
There are even apps dedicated to replicating analog cameras of the past, with Huji Cam being a popular one in recent years. It’s strange to think that even with all the photo capabilities we have, the style of photos from a cheap, disposable camera is still something we lust for.
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When photography was first created in the early-19th century, the pioneers behind it could never have imagined that people would want their pictures to look slightly worse. It was difficult enough to even take clear photos in the beginning with cameras requiring to be mounted on a frame and subjects having to remain perfectly still.
The results were far from perfect. Not to mention, the equipment needed to do it was expensive and temperamental to use — best left in the hands of professionals.
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However, as the technology to capture photos improved and became more readily available, the costs went down accordingly. People could afford to sit for their portrait in front of a camera rather than a painter. This might explain why people posing for their pictures look so stiff and unsmiling in the earliest portrait photography. Although, there’s another reason why this could be, and it’s a bit more horrifying.
In a strange trend throughout the 19th century, people wanted to capture the likeness of their loved ones no matter whether they were alive or not. After all, a photo will remain for long after they do (or rather, did). Known today as post-mortem photography, it was a new take on mourning portraits that were painted of the deceased in pre-photography times. It was also surprisingly popular.
Melted Wax Figures Rescued From The 1925 Fire At Madam Tussaud's London Museum
A Full-Faced Swimming Mask Designed To Protect Women's Skin From The Sun In The 1920s
Trying to capture someone’s best side is a challenge for all photographers, especially if your subject is dead. There were a few techniques used to make the deceased look less lifeless. One was making them appear as if they were sleeping, which is a better way to think of someone that has passed. They’d be carefully tucked into bed or laid against the armrest of a chair, as children often fall asleep.
A Drunken Man In Top Hat And Tails Clings To A Lamp-Post, London, 1934. Photo By Bill Brandt
However, others preferred to see their beloved as they were before and attempted to mask the fact that they were no longer with them. This resulted in macabre photos of the living posing with the dead.
With varying degrees of success, the telltale signs were the lack of life in the eyes (which were jarringly pinned open) and the slouched posture of the subjects (if they weren’t frozen stiff by rigor-mortis). Other bizarre techniques included painting eyes onto the closed lids of the deceased or drawing them onto the film before it was processed.
Whilst the results of these photos are no doubt creepy to us nowadays, they provided a way for people of the time to process the grief of death. They served as a memorial and a reminder of the people that once were, something to be celebrated rather than spoken of in quiet tones. It also highlights how death was considered in the past.
Human Teeth Found In The Wall Of A Building Formerly Used By A Dentist In The Early 1900s
With the lack of medical knowledge to treat or understand illnesses, death was seen often by people in the 19th century. Diseases such as typhoid affected millions during this time, with even the reigning Queen Victoria’s husband succumbing to it. The monarch vowed to wear black for the rest of her life to mourn her lost partner, setting the mood for the latter part of the century.
A Woman In The Wild West Wearing A Bonnet And A Mask Designed To Protect Skin From Sun Damage
17th Century Metal Mask That Was Used To Restrain Individuals Who Were Considered To Be Insane
Grief and mourning were met face-on and post-mortem photography was just one part of this process. Even the perception of the term has changed since that era. Nowadays, it might conjure up images of police investigations into suspicious deaths. In movies and television, this is always played to the effect of death being a dark aspect of life and the corpse as something to be afraid of.
So, whilst our lenses and cameras are the best they’ve ever been, the idea of capturing intimate photos of the deceased is something that’s been left in the past. If it ever makes a reappearance, our attitudes to death will need to change as well. After all, with all this technology available to us, would it be a good way to honor those no longer with us? Who knows, but at least it won’t be as creepy as the black and white photos here.