Secure the Shadow
uses a combination of cultural anthropology and visual analysis to explore the photographic representations of death in the United States from 1840 to the present. It looks at the ways in which people have taken and used photographs of deceased loved ones and their funerals to mitigate the finality of death.
Ruby employs newspaper accounts, advertisements, letters, photographers' account books, interviews, and other material to determine why and how photography and death became intertwined in the nineteenth century. He traces this century's struggle between America's public denial of death and a deeply felt private need to use pictures of those we love to mourn their loss.