Everybody In That Photo Is Dead: Morbid Thoughts Looking At Old Photos

I have an odd facination when looking at old photographs…miners standing by a mine in 1865, city view of downtown Chicago circa 1902, etc. etc. The photos are interesting on many levels - clothing styles, hair styles, the activities and the objects in the background. Plus there is the art factor - the lighting, the posing or lack of posing for the picture.

But then I look at that photo, think of the moment it was taken, look at the people in the picture and think “every person in that photo is dead”.

Is this a “normal” or “creepy morbid” thought when looking at photos like this?

I don’t do it with people, but when I watch older movies with animals in them I always get sad when I realize the date on the movie, then think about the life span of that horse/dog/cat/puma/what have you and realize that animal is probably dead. :frowning:

In my opinion, it’s better than the undead.

Those undead. Man. THEY really creep me out.

I have the same kind of thoughts about old photos, so even if you’re morbid and sick, you have company.

It’s not just old pictures, either. I was watching The Cannonball Run on video, and there’s a scene featuring Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder. I felt compelled to point out to my friends that every actor in that scene is dead now.

Too bad we can’t preserve people like we do photographs.

Archival my ass.

And other parts, too.

I had that in reverse the other day. I was listening to the Flaming Lips and one of their lines goes something like this: Do you realize that one day, everyone you know will be dead?

It made me think about that and saddened me. I mean, I know the facts of living and dying, but it is still sad when you think about it. At least to me it is. It’s hard to fathom all these little kids (nieces, nephews, my own child!) that are so full of energy and life will one day be gone. :frowning:

I’ve been watching a lot of old sci-fi movies lately and getting that feeling. I know 1950 wasn’t that long ago but if someone was 60 then, then yea, they’re dead now. Weird…

Or even old TV shows like “The Honeymooners” or “I Love Lucy”.

Wow. Join the club. I do that almost to a T. I don’t think it’s morbid at all…it’s more sort of an intellectual curiousity about life and death and how lives are lived.

Or, on second thought, maybe it’s just morbid. :slight_smile:

The weird thing is I don’t do this with movies, or if I listen to old songs. Nor do I do this with photos that aren’t of a certain age - the recent past (say, the 1930’s and on) don’t seem so…dead. I occasionally will do this with old paintings too, ones that are portraits or based on some common scene and that are reasonably realistic (like a Degas scene, as opposed to a Bosch or a Van Gogh).

I do it too. Also the thing with animals in movies. Just last night, the wife and I were watching “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and the scene with all the pretty spotted fish came on and I said, “All those fish are dead now.”

My old man used to have a boat-load of stories about stuff he did during his lifetime. Now that he is dead, its as if these things never happend. Sure, I could re-tell them, but a story about something happening to someone you never met would be pretty boring for the intended audience. And when I’m dead, the tales and deeds will be lost forever.

Someday, someone will see picture of me and say, “He is dead now.” :frowning: Nobody will notice or care or think about me or what I was like. They will never hear my kooky stories of my South American adventures/misadventures or life of petty crime and petty order.

Probably for the best. I’m kind of an asshole. I just hope that someone, someday can lounge in a hammock in the shade of the trees I planted, and be thankful they are there.

Yeah, I have those thoughts too. (Although not for the Honeymooners… Joyce Randolph is still alive).

Zev Steinhardt

And the photographer!

I do that with just about anything - question the life something has. My favorite thing to do, however, is to think about trash that is thrown on the street. Whose was it? Why did they get rid of it? If it is not trash but something very old and probably not made of paper or plastic I will think about whether or not they are alive or dead. It intrigues me to think that someone dead left a rememenant of their living, breathing self for the world to see but for none to know.

Where was I?!? Oh, yea, it is normal. I think…

This cracks me up, and it makes me feel much better.

One of my most favorite memories of a long-time family friend involves just such morbidity. My mom, Shirley and I were standing in Brentano’s in Century City killing time before a movie started. Shirley found a book that had pictures of celebrity pets. The three of us were flipping through it, cooing and oohing at all the cutesy-ootsey widdle pets.

We get to a picture of (I think) Douglas Fairbanks - imagine an old style black and white photo. Shirley looks up, and says in all seriousness “You know that dog is dead.” A beat passes, and my mom and I start cracking up. The rest of the photos were judged on whether or not we thought the pets were still alive.

Some time ago I read that Moe Howard of the Three Stooges was a little creeped out that people still loved watching old Stooges shorts, since Curly and Shemp had both died. He thought it was morbid that anyone would laugh at them.

I guess the joke’s on him, since the Stooges are still as popular as they were in the 1930’s, and the whole lot of 'em are pushing up daisies now.

I had a picture, taken in 1989, of my four oldest relatives. Dad-Grandma died in 1994, Mom-Grandma in 1997, her sister in 1999, and finally Mom-Grandpa in 2001 (on 9/12/01, BTW, and wasn’t THAT a great time to plan a funeral!) All in their late 80s or 90s, so while I miss them, it was OK.

But it was the same order in which they’re sitting in the photograph. :eek:

[Dead Poets’ Society]
Caaaaaarpeeeee Diiiiieeeeeeemmmmmm
Caaaaaarpeeeee Diiiiieeeeeeemmmmmm
[/Dead Poets’ Society]
(And yes, I get this too. I also get sad when I look at old boarded up buildings. At one point, a large group of people put an enormous amount of effort and sweat and probably some love into designing and building that building. And things happened in it. It was vibrant. People’s lives were changed because of it. And now it’s boarded up and abandoned.)

Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago that old lady died in France, at the age of 122?
Oldest documented person in the world. So when you are “the oldest” you think ''Everybody who was alive at the moment I was born is dead."

My grandmother, at the age of 99 years, 7 months, and four days, is the oldest person in our family. There’s nobody else left in her generation, no husband, sisters, brothers, in-laws, and so on. Lots of descendants though.

I actually like old pictures, even if folks in them are all gone. I see a wedding photo of my father’s mother, and it connects me to all the other weddings in the family line.

I feel a little sad every time I see the opening sequence of Bonanza (which for some reason seems to be airing pretty much continuously on my cable system). Only Pernell Roberts is still alive.

Remember the Dybbuk Cabinet on Ebay? When I read the story, it didn’t match any of the things I’d heard about dybbuks. But, before I posted what I’d heard about dybbuks, I wanted to search the web to be sure that the stories I knew were typical of dybbuks.

Many sites mentioned an old Yiddish play. One site mentioned that the play had been adapted for film by a troupe of Jewish actors in Poland. The film still exists. Every actor to appear in it was killed in the Holocaust.