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Photography Question 
Caroline M. Harris
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/29/2004
 

Funeral Photography


I have been asked to take photographs at my friends son's funeral. I am a little nervous about it. Has anyone had experience? Can you give me some tips.
He committed suicide which makes it more tragic.
Do you capture the people at the service in their grief?
I thought mayby just the casket being carried, the pall bearers, the flowers.
Anything else?


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1/9/2007 2:55:15 AM

 
W.    Hi Caroline,

you must be in the USA.

You may have been asked to take photos, but if I saw a photog at a funeral I attended, I would be out of there like lightning!
You will look like a Fed Photog at a mob funeral.

It's probably a cultural thing.


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1/9/2007 3:37:07 AM

 
Raymond H. Kemp
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/2/2004
  Has nothing to do with being in the USA. High profile funerals are frequently covered by the media but always outside. Usually casket carring to and from the hearse, some descrete images of family, etc. Always done from a respectable distance without the appearance of intrusion. If you don't have the equipment to shoot from a distance then don't do the assignment.

Ray


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1/9/2007 5:01:49 AM

 
W.    "Has nothing to do with being in the USA."

It does, Ray. In most western countries photographing a funeral is a definite no-no. It is considered to be extremely disrespectful.
Apparently - as your post confirmed once again - not so in the USA!

Indeed "high profile funerals" are (sadly) different. But there is nothing whatsoever in Caroline's post indicating this is about a head of state, a pop star, or a mob don...!


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1/9/2007 5:43:51 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  I've done that before. Whether it's an American thing I don't know. Seen other funerals covered before from other countries, but that's been because it was somebody that was considered news worthy. And only part of the ceremony would be covered.
You do have to keep your distance. And any moving around should be done in the back or off to the side.
You frame and pick your pictures like you do other ceremonies. Show things that show a relationship. Shoot down the row of seats that has the imediate family. Shoot a long shot of one of the family members with the casket or a portrait in the foreground and background(telephoto compression). Tell a story.
You can get pictures of somebody expressing grief, but keep in mind that not everyone at the funeral may know that the family has asked you to take pictures.
Cemeteries are landscape, so use that. There'll be statues there, and trees. Funerals are really for the living. And the term laying to rest signifies a peaceful feeling. So a picture at the cemetery that conveys that will be something that the family would like.


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1/9/2007 7:29:50 AM

 
Susan Fox
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/27/2006
  Hi Caroline,

Since the family asked then do take photos, but please be respectful of others at the funeral. They may not want their grief being photographed.

My cousin (who fancies herself a photographer) took it up herself to bring a camera to my grandfather's wake at the funeral home and the actual funeral, including the viewing at the church.

I was highly offended. No one asked her to take photos. And I certainly didn't appreciate photos taken of me crying and grieving.

She even photographed people consoling my Grandmother. It was very distracting and not appropriate. At one point her flash went off and people turned to stare.

So as you compose your shots and take the photos, please be aware of not imposing on others. And be as non-intrusive as possible.


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1/9/2007 7:43:12 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Yeah, no flash.


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1/9/2007 7:48:39 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Caroline,
I agree no flash, and just do simple, low profile.
There are really mixed emotions with this, but there is a beautiful shot of my grandfathers funral in my gallery that changed my mind on the whole issue.
My daughter( Sargent Jillian F. Tabb) was the only Child,Grandchild or Great Grandchild to follow my Grandfather into the Army.
She was so Proud when the Master Sargent asked her to serve the Flag at her Great Grand Fathers Funeral.( Master Sargent Edward F, Berault,WWII)
and pictures taken there are some of our most treasured.
It is not nessisary nor usually intended that you photograph the body lieing in state.
Ususally they just want documentation of the farewell.
I hope this adds some help,
Debby Tabb


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1/9/2007 8:02:27 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
 
 
  Remembering a Father, a Hero
Remembering a Father, a Hero
© Debby A. Tabb
Nikon D70 Digital ...
 
 
Just another note, you may want to suggest that they put together small collections to cellabrate his life as well.
This gave everyone there something of my Grandfather to hold on to as they said goodby.
Just a thought.


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1/9/2007 8:08:24 AM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  Gregory gives some good suggestions on how this could be done, if it were to be done. But I don't think it should be done.

Let's assume that we are not talking about a photojournalist covering a newsworthy event - that's a different issue.

In the past 8 years, I've buried my parents, four grandparents, and my son, and attended funerals for at least a dozen other family members or friends. I have never in my life seen a photographer at a funeral, nor would I want to.

People are expressing their feelings of grief and sadness because they need to. But in the end, the grief and sadness are not the things that you want to remember and cherish and keep close to your heart. When I stood up at my son's funeral and read a poem that I had written about him, it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But I knew I needed to do it, and I had a Church filled with about 600 people to support me while I did it. I don't need or want a photograph to remind me of how sad I felt at that time. The only way that I've been able to get past the grief of his death is to focus on the joy of his life. I cherish the pictures that I took while he was here with us.

Caroline,
Your friend may think she wants this, but in the end, I think she would be better off without it. The funeral will, without a doubt, be difficult. But in my opinion, she would benefit more from having you nearby with a hug or a shoulder to cry on than with a camera. Have a talk with her. Tell her you want to support her however you can, but you want to be sure that she really wants photographs of this sad time.

Peace.

Chris A. Vedros
www.cavphotos.com



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1/9/2007 8:19:17 AM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  I took a really long time typing my last response.

Susan makes some good points, and I would feel the same way if I saw someone taking pictures at a funeral.

Debby - I understand your attachment to photos taken at your grandfather's funeral, and I think the military connection between him and your daughter made it appropriate.

I can tell you however, from my personal experience, that laying to rest a parent or grandparent is completely different from burying your own child. I'm not trying to tell anyone that they should feel the same way that I feel about it, I'm just giving my opinion.

Chris A. Vedros
www.cavphotos.com


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1/9/2007 8:35:15 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  That's the difference between the expected response, and somebody who wants it. This isn't something that's going to be asked for on an impulse.
And it is a cultural thing. Some funerals from people from a place like New Orleans can have a celebratory aspect to it. That wouldn't be for everybody, and it could be very surprising to someone who isn't familiar with it, to have a small band dance and play "when the saints..." while they're going to the cemetery.
If they asked for it, you're giving them something they want.


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1/9/2007 8:43:05 AM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  your friend asked,how could you refuse.
however morbid you yourself feel,i agree to disagree.i have offended many here caroline,even ongoing.
all photos should be taken before the showing and only with your friend and if she wishes,her family.to avoid family disgust,inform her you will insist,that you will only shoot silhouettes any where near the casket.
do not include anyone from the extended family,and make sure they know you will not shoot anything during the ceremony.no one arriving and no one leaving except their very specific family if they so wish.
make sure they know that if you shoot the buriel you will be so far away that no one will be recognizable.
you will live with this the rest of your life,don't compromise.
you will be perceived as the grim reaper.some will make comments.yet a year later some will ask for copies?
I hope you are prepared,your beliefs will be tried.


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1/9/2007 8:48:10 PM

 
anonymous A.    My son's wife, Joyce, died suddenly and unexpectedly 3 months ago. I took a small digital camera to the funeral and took a dozen photos as discretely as I could (no flash)...the casket in the hearse, the coffin being brought in, her husband and children giving the eulogy, the minister and the coffin and flowers prior to the cremation.
I made up albums and gave them to my son and to his wife's mother. They were extremely grateful, and each of their 2 daughters(aged 9 and 17) asked for an album of their own. Later, Joyce's brothers each came and asked if they could also have copes. When she saw them, Joyce's sister asked for a set, too.
I am not in the USA, Joyce was not a celebrity, and I admit to feeling ambivalent about what I was doing at the time, but so very glad that I went ahead. My wife didn't think I should have had a camera with me: the family's gratitude has changed her perception, too.


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1/9/2007 10:10:54 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  You don't need to be that far away.


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1/9/2007 10:16:47 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  phone calls and threats.
a reference to your mother.
that they're sure your name is on a seat in a very warm place after death.


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1/10/2007 12:17:25 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  You don't realize that if you do shoot a funeral, very few of the pictures would be of the people crying and grieving.


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1/10/2007 10:58:18 PM

 
Rusty Strickland   There is a lot of negativity to the posts. I disagree. I see no problem with taking pictures at funerals if discrete and restrained. I would encourage it.

I took photos at my father's funeral and that of my father-in-law. I was not the only one at the latter. Copies were made available to those who could not attend.
I did not toy with anyone's grief or intrude.

Rusty Tripod


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2/4/2007 10:21:33 AM

 
Rom A.G.   ok, if this is legit, then run away from this "job" as far and as fast as you can.
I dont know what religion or culture this is, that the parents would want photos of their son's funeral.
Ridiculous. Absurd.


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2/6/2007 7:52:55 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  i always wanted to let this go.crying and photography ..
my heart goes out to you chris,so far I have no clue.but I was asked by a friend.i had the knowledge to capture.and I had a friend.
being wrong,or assuming your wrong because of your individual beliefs,is a search.so is it your own beliefs that overshadow a friends belief?
that no harm comes to another,and a presence of mind says I will afford much respect,is it wrong?
this is legit rom,and to refuse a request is what?a belief,or your belief is different?
my intent is to never make judgement of another belief.how could I possibly make that call?my world is your world.?b.s.religion and ethics is not the call.
your friend has a favor or quest.
but then I start to make a decision on my beliefs?which at this time is to honor your beliefs.
sam


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2/6/2007 9:59:26 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Easy Rom AG, I think the "job" had come and gone back in early January.


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2/6/2007 11:22:29 PM

 
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