Stirred once again by poignant reflections at a recent funeral, one that transcended the ordinary to become a profound celebration of a life, I am reminded of the importance of photography in chronicling life’s entirety.
I was surprised by the fact there was a photographer there to capture all the key moments and when later reflecting on this I was struck by how appropriate it was and how important it is to remember to capture all the moments of life, not just the happy ones.
The unforgettable birthing room
In today’s world, a camera’s presence in the birthing room is almost customary. From detailed chronicles of the birthing process to capturing the beautiful moment of a mother cradling her newborn, these images have become a part of so many parents camera roll as they happily share their experience. While yesteryears featured a different scenario, where fathers paced outside the birthing room, the advent of baptismal ceremonies and their photographic documentation marked a pivotal shift. Today, as baptisms become less expected, the camera’s role has seamlessly integrated into the birthing room.
Can we recall a wedding without cameras in tow? The answer is a resounding no. Weddings, extravagant affairs by nature, invariably include a bevy of cameras, both professional and amateur. Each click immortalises moments of joy, and in the digital age, these images are readily shared, becoming collective memories. My christening album, though void of church shots (a norm in those days), features me in my christening gown, surrounded by family in their finest. Wedding albums combine official photographers’ snapshots with those lovingly shared on social media, epitomising the collaborative essence of the digital era.
The point I’m trying to make I’m sure you will realise is that it is the most natural thing in the world to pick up a camera to record all the happy events in our lives. I have a selection of photos from my Christening day (but non-taken in the Church because that wasn’t the norm in those days) they did, however, feature me in the Christening gown and my family in their finery. I have wedding photos from an official photographer as well as many shared on social media by family and friends. Of course, another benefit of the digital age we live in is that so many others can help us to record these moments for posterity.
The Journey through Life
Life’s canvas isn’t solely painted in happy colours. As I reminisce on my personal journey, certain memories stand out: the time I broke my leg. Regrettably, no photographs accompany the tale of weeks spent in casts and on crutches. While stories abound, like my unintended destruction of a coffee table with crutches, photography was not a thought. Yet, times are changing. In modern society we begin to recognise the value of preserving even somber moments, understanding that a photograph speaks volumes—a testament to the age of the “selfie.”
I think there are changes happening and young people especially are very good at realising the significance of these moments and remembering to record them if only on camera if not in any journalistic way, after all, a picture tells a thousand words as the saying goes. We are very much living in the age of the “selfie”
Photography at Funerals
Returning to the point of this post—photography at funerals. These photographs encompass a threefold purpose. They portray the impact an individual has on others, document the presence of near and dear ones amidst the whirlwind of emotions, and offer a poignant remembrance of the departed’s final earthly gathering. In yesterday’s packed church, a vivid testament to a wonderful man’s place amongst us photos were taken which I’m sure will help the family’s healing process.
Victorian Ethos: Photographing the departed
Interestingly, I recently came across this article written about the early days of photography when having a family photo taken was an expensive business, due to this there was a trend for post-mortem photos showing the recently deceased with their loved ones. A need to capture their image which may not have ever been done. Looking through some of these old Victorian images there was a haunting beauty to many of them reinforcing the feeling that they had simply fallen asleep.
I find it quite interesting that in the Victorian era which has a reputation for being prudish with many taboos they found comfort in taking photographs of their recent departed and yet now when we as a society have moved on so very much and openly discuss many subjects that would previously have been taboo still shy away from death. Before writing this post I did a little bit of research to see if the unexpectedness of a photographer at a funeral was limited to my personal experiences and yet I discovered searching for British funerals it seems outside of Royalty and major celebrity there really doesn’t seem to be much to see other than general stock images.
Remember to capture all the moments of life
Perhaps we should all learn a lesson from my friend and remember to record the final memories and help to provide a record of what that individual meant to those left behind. Maybe in the future, I will not be as surprised to see a camera at the funeral of a friend or loved one.
Until next time,