Picturing Goodbye

Few people think of having funeral and memorial services photographed.  If done properly it can be a tremendous source of comfort to a family.  It might also be the only time for some families to take group portraits as members often live many miles apart and only see each other on such occasions.  When my mother passed almost 10 years ago, the services were beautiful and well attended with relatives that I haven’t seen since. I certainly wish pictures had been taken.

The pictures that I take do not focus on the deceased but on the people gathered.  Many of them are taken discretely from a distance.  Unless the family requests I do not take pictures during the ceremony but have found that afterwards and during the repast there are opportunities to capture images that will be treasured for years.  Sometimes this becomes the last time family members are photographed together.

Reasons I think a funeral is one of the best times to take pictures.

  1. It’s an important life event that can be documented for future generations.
  2. Often families in mourning are not able to focus on who is present and what events are happening.  Pictures allow them to be reminded.
  3. Photographs can bring comfort to family members later.  They can be reminders of how many people attended and how special the ceremony was.
  4. It’s an excellent opportunity for family portraits as sadly this is the time when the most family members are in one place. Often family members have not seen each other in years and may not see each again for years.
  5. At the repast people are nicely dressed and are usually willing to be photographed.  I have had family members who are not on speaking terms for some reason still agree to take a picture for this occasion.

horse drawn funeral carriage at cemetary

This beautiful horse-drawn carriage convinced me that I needed to have some kind of camera with me.  In this case it was my cell phone.

family gathered at cementary

Deceased laying in repose

family viewing loved one

Quiet moments can be taken quietly without intruding.

Mourners leaving church after funeral

Families often would never have an idea of the number of attendees.

family portrait during repast

family portrait after funeral  in Washington DC

For the two pictures above it would have been very difficult to have all of these family members gather in one place for these portraits except for these occasions.  After the repast families relax somewhat and are more open to pictures and often can even manage some smiles.