Pictures at memorial of recently deceased friend?
July 7, 2011 8:39 AM   Subscribe

(posting for a buddy of mine) Is it ever ok to take pictures at the memorial of a recently deceased friend?

A close friend of mine just passed away two weeks ago and his wife is having a memorial for him today. It's more of a celebration of his life, his favorite local band will be playing music to lighten the mood, and there will be food and a playground for the kids. She is wondering if it would be wrong to take pictures at this event? People will obviously be morning his passing, but she wants to remember all the people who came out to celebrate his life.
posted by xbonesgt to Human Relations (27 answers total)
I would not mind if someone were taking pictures to remember the event. I might not want to see those pictures for awhile, but eventually, I would be glad they existed.

Very glad, I think. She might want to ask someone though.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:48 AM on July 7, 2011

Because this is not a funeral like you said. It's more of a wake. I don't know. Maybe I'm totally wrong on this one. Grief can move people in lots of different ways. You can either be okay with everything or flip out because a gust of wind happens or someone is wearing a color of shirt that sets you off.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:50 AM on July 7, 2011

I took photos at my father's funeral. I wish I had taken more photos of who had been there as I think my mother would have really liked looking at them at some later date. I think it's okay as long as the photographer is discreet and not too forceful. And, as it is his wife, she can do whatever she wants. If she wants everyone to boogie-woogie and break a pinata, then that's what you should do.

So sorry for your loss.
posted by amanda at 8:50 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

As his family (and the person organizing the memorial), it's his wife's right to choose, taking into account what he'd want and what his friends/family would be comfortable with. It sounds like she's the one you're asking for, and I'd say she should go for it (and that the memorial plans sound lovely.)
posted by kagredon at 8:50 AM on July 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm really sorry for your loss. It's not totally clear from your question if it is the friend's wife who wants to take pictures or another friend altogether. If it's the first, I think it's fine. The memorial is really for the people who loved your friend to come together and support one another. If she wants to be able to remember those people and the day with photos, I think it's entirely her call and can be a lovely reminder to her of how many people loved your friend.

If it's someone else who is asking about doing this, I would probably try to touch base with the family of the deceased. See if it's ok with them. If not, don't do it. If it is ok, ask if they also want access to the pictures, and figure out the best way to make that happen (wait, post it somewhere, print out copies, etc.).
posted by goggie at 8:53 AM on July 7, 2011

When my aunts husband died, she had a "life celebration" and I took pictures of every person there. Everyone remarked that pictures of the multitudes were a great way to remind my aunt of all the support she could rely on in the future.
posted by notsnot at 8:54 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

If this is as the request of his wife, then, yes, I think it is okay. His family deserves pretty much anything they'd like right now.

I would suggest getting an, ah, empathetic photographer who knows when to take photos (people laughing and hugging) and when to abstain (people crying and hugging.)
posted by griphus at 8:54 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

If she wants photos, she gets photos. The event might be a blur for her, it would probably be nice for her to have photos after the fact to reflect on.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:58 AM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]

I don't know, I'd feel pretty non-plussed if somebody took photographs of me at a wake.

One option could be to have an area specifically set up for photos. Those who wish to be photographed can be, and the rest can do their mourning undocumented.
posted by Georgina at 9:17 AM on July 7, 2011

Can you explain what you mean by "memorial"? Has a wake/funeral service already occurred?

Because if those events have already occurred, this just sounds like a party where you are celebrating someone's life. I would still ask, but this doesn't sound much like a traditional wake.

Data point: I had an Aunt that passed and someone took pictures at the wake (open a funeral home....the whole bit) and actually took pictures of my deceased Aunt. No one was amused by this.
posted by PsuDab93 at 9:23 AM on July 7, 2011

When my paternal grandfather died, I couldn't make it to the funeral. My father took pictures of everything for me. It meant a lot.
posted by likeso at 9:23 AM on July 7, 2011

No, don't photograph a funeral or a memorial service. It's in extremely poor taste, even if the family has specifically requested it. Those unable to attend or those desiring a keepsake can have a program from the service.
posted by Electrius at 9:42 AM on July 7, 2011

It hadn't occurred to me that you couldn't take photos of living people at a family gathering. I assume these are photos of the "three to six relatives standing next to each other looking at the camera" type.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:42 AM on July 7, 2011

It's in extremely poor taste, even if the family has specifically requested it.

Not honoring the requests of the grieving family is in extremely poor taste.
posted by hermitosis at 9:52 AM on July 7, 2011 [20 favorites]

I'm convinced that when people die mourners make up funeral traditions on the spot. When my Dad died, one of his work buddies decided it'd be a great idea to take polaroids of everyone and tuck the photos in the casket. I personally thought the gesture was both ridiculous and offensive, but I took the higher road as it was coming from a good place, and thought this old co-worker should be allowed to grieve in his own way.

That said, this old co-worker didn't try very hard at all to understand how the immediate family needed to grieve. What he should have done is stay out of the way, or at least ask if we were OK with this.

People grieve in lots of different ways, but the way Miss Manners or your nosy aunt would like you to grieve is irrelevant to what the people most connected to the deceased need. If the wife wants pictures, you give her pictures. Amazing ones.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 9:58 AM on July 7, 2011

I wish that I'd taken family photos at my dad's and my uncle's funerals. We were all together and nicely dressed, after all. This can be done quietly and tastefully, perhaps outside in front of some trees or a rosebush (which is what I would've done).

I wouldn't do candid, reception-style at the wake shots without being asked.
posted by jgirl at 10:01 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Annecdata: when my mother-in-law died, my sister-in-law (daughter of the deceased) very much wanted photos so that she/we could be reminded in the future of how many people loved her and wanted to pay their respects. She and another relative took lots of photod and no-one seemed to mind. However, the funeral took place 3 weeks after she had died an expected death from long painful illness and the family very much viewed the day as a celebration of her life. Photography might be more of a problem under different circumstances.

My advice: ask the family, be sensitive to the atmosphere and of course stop if people appear distressed by it.
posted by *becca* at 10:08 AM on July 7, 2011

My husband's family posed in groups by the coffin of his grandmother at her funeral. I found it bizarre but that's what they wanted to do. So be it. Do whatever the mourning family wants to do.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:21 AM on July 7, 2011

I attended a memorial party like this once, and I don't think it would be weird at all to have someone taking photos. The only thing I'd suggest--and this is probably obvious--don't point a camera at or near anyone who is crying or visibly upset.

Anecdotally, there are folks in my extended family who have traditions like taking photographs together at family funerals or taking photos of the flowers and (closed) casket. It's not something I would want, but I've never been offended by it.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:25 AM on July 7, 2011

Old custom of taking Funeral photos. In some cases it was the only photo ever taken of the deceased. However this is not a funeral. It is a celebration of the person's life, and having recently attended a similar event I would say without hesitation that it is OK. This is probably the last time many of these folks will be together until the next funeral.
posted by Gungho at 10:56 AM on July 7, 2011

At my uncle's wake in March, I had a laptop set up showing a slideshow of old photographs. It garnered a lot of positive attention. There were a *ton* of old friends there, too, and I don't think too many of the people in those reunions would have objected if someone had suggested a few pictures.

It really depends on the folks attending, I suppose.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:28 AM on July 7, 2011

I guess it depends on the family, but when my great-aunt died when I was 4, my family took tons of pictures of all the family at the wake, funeral, at home, etc. I really value those now, especially since for many of those relatives that's the only time I "met" them.

My favorite photo is the one of me trying to convince my cousin (who was also 4) to climb in the coffin with me at the funeral. In retrospect, I think that may have been because I used to spend a lot of time in my great aunt's bed with her when she was sick, and I may not have understood the difference. But it's a great memory for all my family and it's great that it's immortalized; it put a bit of levity into the proceedings at the time, apparently.

It's an especially important memory for me because it reminds me of what a strong connection I had with my great aunt, how she always took me seriously and listened to me and played with me for hours when all the other adults were busy. Even at the funeral, I still had to lie next to her one last time and tell her one of my long, rambling toddler-language stories, because I knew, even then, that she was always listening.

All that is to say, I cannot tell you how amazing it is that I have a photograph of that moment. I'm so glad someone was considerate enough to take pictures.
posted by lesli212 at 11:46 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't see why not, especially if the family is who is requesting photos. The New York Times had an article in January about how even funerals are being streamed over the internet for friends and family who can't make it. While some people might object that this is in poor taste, I wish I had known about this or thought about taking pictures of my dad's memorial. His siblings were unable to travel due to their own health issues and pictures of friends and family there would have meant a lot to them. I also think my mom would have appreciated them later.

I think it's fine.
posted by katinka-katinka at 12:27 PM on July 7, 2011

As the chief mourner, it should be ok for her to take pictures.
posted by tel3path at 12:41 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

She's the widow, she can do whatever the hell she wants.

This is something to remember her husband by and all those who are honoring his memory. That idea more or less falls within pretty broad social norms.

The only qualifier I can think of is that all these other people are there to pay their respects as well. For some people, that's a very personal, private thing. So... she should try to be unobtrusive and not obnoxious about it.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:46 PM on July 7, 2011

When we went to the memorial service for my mother's estranged brother, we met with my cousins for the first time in close to 25 years. As we had been generously invited with the intent of healing the family rift, we made sure to make this connection as warm as possible. After the service, which was professionally videographed (at this beautiful chapel; speakers included a pol and a university president), I took some discreet casual shots as the urn was interred, and then we took others as different posed groupings of family. There were 3-6 other people who took a handful of less discreet (i.e. flash) casual shots during the same ceremony. I don't think it was out of place, and did not seem to offend anyone.
posted by dhartung at 10:15 PM on July 7, 2011

nthing if it's alright with the family, then you should.

A friend's wife passed away a few years ago, and her memorial was at the Hideout in Chicago. After the event, the husband had everybody spill out of the bar onto the street for an official photo. It is a very powerful document of all of those that cared for and were grieving their friend. I am glad he did that.
posted by Sreiny at 6:16 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

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