From Wikipedia: A memento mori (Latin ’remember that you will die’) is an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death.
What’s seen in this photo is a form of memento mori that is seldom talked about as it’s hard to understand what’s going on until you really know what to look for. There are many photos like this in circulation, but few outsiders know the dark secret held within.
You only have to look at it to start noticing that something isn’t quite right.
The person on the right, sitting in the chair, is a grieving mother. That part you probably knew.
The real secret involves the person on the left. The THREE people on the left.
There is a child or young adult at the bottom of the flowing dress, hands up and gripping the ankles of their sibling, who is perched on their shoulders. The child at the bottom is completely in the dark. The sibling on their shoulders is recently deceased.
The photographer’s assistant is standing behind both children, keeping the deceased balanced upon the live sibling’s shoulders. You can see one of the assistant’s hands poking out of the sleeve. The reason you don’t see the other hand is because it’s grasping a harness that’s wrapped around the deceased child’s waist, under the dress.
This memento mori photo was given to the mother, as a way of seeing what their son or daughter might’ve looked like if they’d grown to an older age. The memento mori given to the still living sibling was a lesson to remind them that they could die. It was also meant to instill courage, as the living sibling had to remain in the dark, holding tight to their dead sibling for thirty minutes or more.