In Victorian times, it was a common practice to photograph the dead, particularly at the end of the 19th century. Post-mortem photography was an inexpensive way for the lower classes to immortalize lost loved ones, especially children and infants. Childhood mortality rates were significantly high during the period, and post-mortem portraits were usually the only portraits a child would have. The corpses were usually posed into natural positions such as sitting in a chair or on a couch, and the eyes were opened to give the illusion of life. If the subject were an infant, the mother would often be photographed with the corpse, sometimes even holding the body in their arms. In some circumstances, the corpse’s eyes remained closed, and the corpse was lain in bed, as if they were in a deep sleep.
Disturbing fact: One way to tell who is alive and who isn’t in these photographs is by looking at the blur. People who are blurry are alive because it is hard to sit perfectly still for 5+ minutes (cameras then had quite a long exposure time), but the deceased’s image would come out perfectly clear.
Learned about this when I was doing the library display for my internship. If you see a picture of a child or an infant from this time period it’s likely a corpse, since getting an infant or a child to sit perfectly still for more than .05 seconds is an impossible task. (And even then it’s difficult.)
And tinting of red is added to their cheeks by hand by the photographer to give the impression of life and colour and depth.