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17 Aug, 2015 15:00

Selfies with the dead? 13yo crash victim in centre of 'sick' social media storm

Selfies with the dead? 13yo crash victim in centre of 'sick' social media storm

A group on Russian social network VKontake (In Contact) is offering “real money” for selfies with dead people. Announced by its founder, the contest sparked controversy as he urged members to take photos of a 13-year-old girl who died in a car crash.

The web community of those interested in taking postmortem photos is quite numerous, with over 480 members. Those who don’t agree with the group’s stated goals are kindly asked to leave.

The statement of the community maintains that the group does not “oppose society,” supporting “generally-accepted codes of behavior” and morals, but has its own attitude towards funerals and the commemoration of the dead.

“We believe that memory should not be manifested through tears and grief.”

At the same time, the founder of the community proposes to turn a profit from taking selfies with dead people.

“We pay real money for your photo with a deceased relative,” claims the community.

Founder Alfred Polyakov says he’s ready to pay 150 rubles ($2.50) for any unique selfie with a corpse, with “the best photos” being chosen each month. The winner of the competition is promised 5,000 rubles ($75), while shortlisted photos received 1,000 rubles ($15).

Although the amounts are negligible, the founder calls them “easy money.”

“The more photos with the departed, the greater chance to win the first prize,” the group claims.

Strong reactions to the macabre practice have been voiced all over the Russian internet.

“Just watched a program about selfies, that’s definitely a psychological dependence. But taking selfies with dead people is over the top!” said one Twitter user.

“Thought the news about making selfie with the dead is a joke. No, it’s not,” another tweeted.

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Polyakov’s group even recommends that people search through local media for information about people who have died recently, advising them to go to funeral services and take a selfie after honoring the memory of the dead person.

The community has detailed rules for taking part in the contest, and recommends that the person taking the selfie smiles – to “pay tribute” to the dead.

The ‘postmortem selfie’ contest was announced in July, but drew a lot of attention a month later, when Polyakov urged relatives and friends of a 13-year-old girl who died in car accident to take part in the contest, promising to pay for their selfies.

Instead of “drinking alcohol” at a wake, Polyakov advised them to “act generously” and earn money for the girl’s family.

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The family of the girl filed a complaint to police, who are now trying to work out whether any laws have been violated. Polyakov insists he has done nothing wrong, however.

The macabre practice of post-mortem photography dates back almost as far as the beginning of photography itself – 20 years after the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839. In 19th-century photography, the bodies of the dead were arranged so as to appear lifelike. In those early days, there were a number of ‘family photos’ with the dead, when people posed together with the deceased to have a photo for a family album.