Death and Photographs: “El Día del Muerto/Day of the Dead”

Suzanne E Hermanoczki


This essay connects creative non-fiction reflections with critical discourse on death photography. The work documents personal moments of my father’s death while presenting research into death photographs and its significance in shaping my own work in creative writing. The essay Death and Photographs: “El Día del Muerto/Day of the Dead”, responds to the practice of death photography, analysing the power and wounding effect of such images in regards to the Barthesian idea of the “punctum”. In this essay, I exemplify how particular photographs of the dead are “memento mori”, adding that if the subject (in the image) is known, the photograph has the ability to transform into the “personal punctum” (own term), triggering memories of trauma and grief for the viewer/reader. These photographs in their ability to evoke personal recollections are transformative; becoming not merely a space for remembrance, grief, and meditation, but more specifically a site which allows for “photo-elicitation”, enabling questioning, dialogue, non-fictional narrative and fictional possibilities to emerge.


Creativity, death photographs, memento mori, writing

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