2014 — Retoucher les morts

Illustration article Retoucher les morts

Retoucher les morts. Les usages magiques de la photographie en Mongolie

Published in Terrain 62 (2014), pp. 138–151.

DOI: 10.4000/terrain.15390

Summary: When somebody dies in Mongolia it is customary to make a funerary portrait of the deceased based on an identity card photograph which is then enlarged, coloured and touched up. Such a portrait is used during the funeral and is then placed near religious images close to the hearth of the house where the deceased lived before his, or her, death. These portraits are a kind of double of the dead via which the deceased can receive offerings from close kins during the period of mourning and afterwards. Photographs have an indexical and iconic value which derives from the fact that they are both a trace of the deceased and that they resemble them. In Mongolia as elsewhere this gives them the magical power of reaching a person who is either far away or absent. In touching up the portraits of dead relatives the Mongols seem to go further in such magical uses of photography. When they retouch the image they are not only creating a support for their relation to the dead but they also seem to give themselves the means of transforming them.

Retoucher les morts