One increasingly common trend that we’re seeing in funeral planning today is the presence of a funeral photographer at the services. As the name suggests, this professional is on hand to take pictures of a memorial ceremony, the sprays of funeral flowers, the guests, and, in some rarer cases, the coffin or deceased.
While some people consider this practice macabre, funeral photography has actually been around for centuries. And as a recent photograph at the funeral of fallen Navy S.E.A.L Jon Tumilson (with his grieving pet Lab) proves, pictures can be a powerful way to capture the emotions of the day and pay a lasting tribute to those who pass on.
History of Funeral Photography
The practice of painting funeral pictures goes back centuries, but it was popularized in the Victorian era with the invention of the camera. Starting in the 1840s, it became acceptable to take a picture of the deceased in his or her funeral finery. While we look back on many of these post-mortem photographs and consider it gruesome, it was actually a moment of respect and love for the Victorians. Photographs weren’t common at the time, and they were expensive to commission, so it was considered a big deal to generate a keepsake like this.
Although this type of funeral photography is rarely done today, it is still popular in many Orthodox churches to take pictures of the deceased as he or she lay in the coffin. It is also becoming increasingly more common for modern families to take photos of the coffin once it is closed, either at the memorial service or as it is buried.
Hiring a Funeral Photographer
For many families, funerals represent one of the few times out of the year that everyone gathers together. Long distances, busy work schedules, and other life pressures make it difficult to set aside time for family reunions. Weddings and funerals tend to be the exception to this, and some people want to take advantage of these moments to capture family memories.
Like wedding photographers, funeral photographers are there to capture the emotions of the day, whether that is grief, hope, love, loss, or any combination thereof. Group photos are common, as well as pictures of the flowers and arrangements, which can help with sending thank-you notes later on.
Although few people plan on blowing up the photos and framing them for display in their house, these pictures can be a great reminder of how far you’ve come in your grief and bereavement. Funeral photos can also be beneficial to friends and family members who are unable to attend the funeral, and who may wish to have something to remember the event by.
You can either choose to hire a professional funeral photographer, who has the skills and tact necessary to make the process easy, or you can do it yourself. Either way, most people do appreciate having those pictures in the years and decades that follow.
Funeral Photography Isn’t for Everyone
How in-depth and involved the funeral photography goes is up to you. Some people want a picture of the open casket as a final reminder of the loved one, while others would prefer to eliminate all shots of the body or coffin. Almost all funeral homes will be willing to work with you as you set up the funeral photographer and shots, though you may need to make advance arrangements, especially as the memorial service and flowers are set up.
Funeral photography doesn’t have to be dark or vulgar or uncomfortable. Although it is still unheard of in many funeral circles, the trend is growing, especially as more and more people choose to share their memories online and on memorial websites.
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By Amy Johnson