Funeral Photography

December 28, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

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We like to document the joyful times of our lives. We hire photographers for weddings, births and other significant milestones. How about funerals? I grew up with parents who would receive photos from Lithuania of relatives standing beside caskets of loved ones. They were grim photos, but they documented the end of life, and showed the survivors. So, to me, photos at funerals aren't out of the ordinary. 

Before Christmas, a photographer I love passed away. His funeral was the 27th. My aunt didn't directly ask me to take photos, but I knew she was asking. Leave it to my mom to tell me bluntly that I should take photos. So I did. As with weddings, but perhaps even more so, funerals are a blur in hindsight. 

Joe had a successful career in photography. He took photos of my family throughout our significant milestones. He also did corporate work and weddings. Aside from that, he always had a camera at family functions. He documented our lives. My aunt, in her grief, so plainly stated "We lost our photographer." So true. It was actually an honor to capture his funeral for my family to have images to send back to the old country or just to keep to help remember the day. Maybe they'll look at them once, and never again. Totally okay.

Being responsible for photographing the day was a welcomed distraction. Over the course of his illness, I had to fill in for Joe a couple of times. They were challenges in the sense that he had previously made the task look easy, with his many years of experience- and because I didn't want to have to replace him because he no longer could take on the responsibilities. I knew we would lose him and that was not okay.

When Joe's body was brought to the altar of the church, I smiled to myself. He had stunning light. Photography is nothing more than capturing light. And at the funeral, his was beautiful. I'm not sure if anyone else noticed, or if it was just for me. But I snapped it up. It was tough to say good-bye to a mentor and fellow camera compadre. I grieve for my family members who still had plans and dreams to share, and for the community at large who lost a friend and a giver and a gentle, kind soul. As my cousin said in the eulogy, "Joe is the kind of person we need more of in the world, and cannot afford to lose."

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