When funeral photographer Duane Knight attended the wake of a childhood friend last December, he was relieved to see a man there taking photographs. But when Knight later learned that the photographer was the father of the deceased, he was devastated. “Oh, I felt so sad that he was taking the photos instead of just being present at his own daughter’s funeral.” Knight believes as a matter of principle that every end-of-life service should be photographed by an empathic but distanced professional with the eye of a photo journalist. If we employ such people to shoot weddings, why not funerals?
Yes, immediate family members may be crying and not looking their best, but Knight isn’t interested in capturing images of their faces in that moment. It’s everybody else there in attendance–friends from the office, relatives who’ve traveled long distances–and all the small loving gestures and tender moments going unnoticed that should be documented, he says. “A good funeral photographer has to learn to be invisible. You have to know where to stand. You can’t use a flash. It’s a very delicate thing.” Two to three weeks later, Knight presents the family with an 8X8″ book of photos he has created. “They look at it and thank me through their tears,” Knight says. “I give them a healing record they can keep and browse through forever.”
It is truly a shame how our society views funerals. We always look at the death, or the event that lead to the death, or the time that we will now miss with the person who has passed. What we should be looking at is the time we did have, the memories we did make, and the life that was lived. If you look at death through that viewpoint, it cannot possibly be a bad thing. Anyone, no matter who they were, when they died, how they died, or how old they were, left an impact on someones life. If we spent more time thinking of the moments we forged with gratitude, instead of the memories we may or may not have lost because they passed away, then I think death would become much more manageable to handle. A funeral photographer is great in that he/she is able to captrue the moments that you may have missed because we were too busy being sad.
As a freelancer photographer, the one who comes to mind for any event is a fine gentlemen named Corey Hudson. I met Corey on the beach a couple of years ago. I was babysitting a little boy, and he was volunteeering his time for the Look for the Good Project. Upon meeting I told Corey I was in a band, and he volunteered 3 hours of his life to shoot one of our concerts, for free! The guy was so amazing that he came to mind as I write this post. If I ever had to pick a photographer to shoot a funeral, it would be him. Feel free to look up his company, CJHudson Photography (cjhudsonphotography.com). I am certain if you do, you will not be let down
Funeral and post-mordem photos were vitally important to the American grieving process from around 1840 through the Victorian period until the late 1920s. A good funeral photographer will strongly feel he is modernizing a tradition that deserves greater respect. Let me know how you feel about this, and what your experiences with funeral photography have been.
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