In the April 2009 issue, we answered a letter from Paul Woo, who wanted to photograph his uncle’s funeral. While no funeral homes we contacted had polices on picture taking, the general consensus among our editors was that some events can go undocumented. Some of our readers disagreed, below are two letters from photographers who work at funerals.
To: POP Editor
My experience has been a little different from your editors consensus… Over the past few years I have been to 3 military funerals. At the first funeral, a Club member’s son had been killed in Iraq. I thought about taking my camera but like your editors felt I might be intrusive and therefore disrespectful to the deceased. When I arrived at the cemetery where the service and interment was take place, the Mother of the deceased who knew I was the Club’s photographer and ask me if I would take pictures of the service and interment. I told her that I had left my camera home and didn’t have time to go get it.
She asked me to use her camera but to cover the program as I did during Club functions. At subsequent funerals I quietly asked the survivor’s spouse, in one case, and the mother of the fallen solder in the other. Both thanked me and ask me to document the services on film.
I did not use flash for any of the shots, I stayed as unobtrusive as possible and took no pictures of the corpse, only the flowers, the casket, the guests, the procession and the internment setting. I also gave the deceased’s survivors the only CD of the pictures I took. They have the only pictures and it is up to them to determine how they will be displayed.