Cofani Funebri Calender 2004/May-juni mod.218 "Love Divine" Cofani Funebri Calender 2004/May-juni mod.218 "Love Divine"

Tot Zover

Especially for You

We consume things endlessly, but there is one product we are reluctant to buy: the coffin. By means of product photography and the erotic coffin calenders of an Italian coffin manufacturer, the exhibition 'Especially For You' demonstrates the complex marriage between commerce and death. How to sell the unsellable?

The coffin catalogue

Funerals are our last minute of fame, so only the best is good enough. This ultimate farewell faces those left behind with some difficult choices. Together with the funeral director you fumble, reluctantly, through the coffin catalogue: ´Would you like solid hardwood oak or this high-quality veneer? Or perhaps you prefer a more personal coffin from our Trendy-line?´

To facilitate the decision funeral casket manufacturers will show off their product in the best possible way. But can this most reviled object ever be made appealing? Historic and contemporary coffin product photography reflect this difficult paradox.

The Coffin as lifestyle object

In the sixties death was not only made taboo, it was also fully embedded into consumer culture. Market-led thinking called for a new approach to product photography. Coffin manufacturers ditched the gloomy chambers of mourning, hung with black curtains and silver trimming. Just like sofas in the home collection catalogues, coffins were photographed in an optimistic setting. The coffin is no longer an emblem of mortality, but an attractive lifestyle product. Even in death one wants to make a good impression.


Targeting sub-groups

The coffin no longer emphasized social status, but rather the identity of the deceased. The pre-war social class system which involved first, second and third class coffins had disappeared. Due to processes of secularisation and individualism the variety of coffin types gradually increased. Product innovation tailored to personal diversity. Conform marketing laws of segmentation the coffin manufacturers tried to target sub-groups by associating coffins to certain lifestyles.

Enhanced imaging technology provided new possibilities to showcase the coffin in a charming manner. Photoshop allows coffins to float over land, sea and in the air. Meanwhile the 100% computer rendered advertisements obliterate the presence of a camera and coffin altogether.


Softening the sharp edge of death can also be done with erotica. The Italian coffin company Cofani Funebri introduced erotic coffin calendar art to advertise their funeral caskets. It´s a well-known marketing ploy: sex sells. The unaware seduction has become incarnate.  

Ten Golden Rules of Awesome Product Photography

The key to successful selling is good photography of your product. Make your product look appealing and polished.

  1. Choose a neutral background that does not distract your customer from what you actually want them to look at: your product
  2. Make sure styling and props support your product
  3. Use natural lighting. Avoid flashlight and artificial light sources.They wash out the colour of the product and add glimmer and shadow to unwanted places
  4. Sharpness. Your product’s photo should be as sharp as how you target higher sales
  5. Keep the angle ultra-consistent
  6. Advanced: shoot from strange angles
  7. Advanced: kill the plain background and stage your product in weird use like unsuspecting locations with special props. Be creative.
  8. Advanced: use image manipulation for originality
  9. Advanced: use unique and fancy stands
  10. Advanced: add personality and humanize your products with lifestyle shots. They’re simply photos showing your product in use!