I’ve got a short story about a situation that struck me as odd and a bit inappropriate. A long time has passed but this still irks me a little.
I grew up with my beloved grandma never living more than a few minutes away from me. Given that I was home schooled for a few years, my parents both worked during the day (my mom was part time and I still did well in public school and university later), and I had the most obnoxious brother, I spent a lot of time visiting my grandma. She had some health problems that hindered her mobility but she was one of the best loved people in our community and she was my best friend.
She died suddenly in 2001 when I was away at university and I couldn’t reschedule all of my exams or afford a plane ticket home for the funeral. I was heartbroken but I held it together and still managed to study and work.
I moved closer to my family a couple of years later and everyone decided to have a small memorial for the family who hadn’t been able to make the funeral. We had just a small graveside gathering and I could not stop crying. I was discreet but that was the moment that I realized that she really was gone and it was the worst moment of my life.
A family friend had been asked to sing and she did a lovely job. This woman and her family have a generations long friendship with ours and this was very special. This woman also brought her camera. After the service was over my brother and I kind of clung to each other because he was hurting just as much. And out of nowhere this woman began taking photos of us crying and hugging. She just intruded on that moment and took a few photos of us without asking.
She’s mentioned those photos a couple of times over the years in passing. “Oh I have to remember to send you and your brother the beautiful pictures I got of you at your dear grandmother’s service. I just love them and you should have copies.” I’ve never seen them and I don’t want to see them. I’m sure she captured our grief beautifully but I don’t want the reminder and neither of us agreed to be someone’s photography project.
So here’s my question. Is photography at funerals/memorials normal or was she overstepping? 0217-16
When my father died, I was unable to fly across country due to medical restrictions placed on me by my doctor. Two Ehellions who lived in the area very kindly offered to attend the internment ceremony at a national cemetery and take photos for me. They were very discreet and their photos turned out to be the only ones taken that day by anyone. I and many family members remain grateful for those photos, particularly more elderly and distant relatives who could not attend.
When my father-in-love died a few years later, he was interred at Arlington National Cemetery and someone in the family took photos of that as well. He was buried with full military honors including caisson horses, 21 gun salute, and a large military band playing in the background. It was impressive and the photos remind me of how I felt being there and my awe of the respect shown for his service.
So, obviously I consider photography at memorial services and burials to be appropriate. The question you are really asking is whether a person has the right to invade a private moment by sticking a camera in your face. I think that can cross a line into indiscretion. Essentially a private moment between you and your brother was interrupted by the addition of a third person who was not intruding for the purposes of sharing your grief but rather to record it thus distracting you from the moment and its significance. Had she taken the photo from a distance you might have felt differently…I don’t know. And the second question is how these photos are copied and shared. It’s one thing to share photos with the family and quite another to post them on Facebook where the whole world might see them.
One thing you might want to consider. This very old family friend may take comfort from the photos because it reminds her of own grief and that others loved your grandmother and share her depth of grief.