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So.... Am I a Ghoul, or Deviant?
Old 01-24-2008   #1
jolefler
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So.... Am I a Ghoul, or Deviant?

Here's a one in a lifetime question....I'll confess later, but here's your (my former) situation:

The nursing home where both your parents are interred calls at 3:30 AM to inform you that your Mother has passed away. Your dress and leave for the home. Upon arriving you wake your Father who's in the same room to inform him. You consol and lead him to the adjoining bed, where your deceased Mother lies. After 15-20 minutes of physical consolation, you seat yourself in a chair at a nearby table. As your Father grieves, do you reach for your pocketed Barnack?

OK, I did. The negs are still hanging to dry from processing 12 hours ago. A quick inspection determines they are printable. I don't know if I should. Would you?

Last edited by jolefler : 01-24-2008 at 08:31.
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Old 01-24-2008   #2
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I'd probably wait a few years or let my son/daughter make that decision someday.
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Old 01-24-2008   #3
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That is a very painful situation. I wouldn't be able to do it. I was in a funeral procession following a casket a few years back. I had a P&S digital camera that I pulled out of my pocket and snapped the coffin and pall bearers in front of me. I never look at that photo, although I might go back and look at it today because of your post. Good luck with your decission.

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Old 01-24-2008   #4
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I'm so sorry to hear about your mother.

Your decision to print the negatives is such a personal one, I would hesitate to tell you what to do.

Would I print them were I in your shoes? I have no idea. On the one hand, they're just images, after all. What harm would printing them do? Be prepared (if that's possible) for a flood of emotion should you take that step. It could be a cathartic experience for you.

Waiting to print them is an option. Obviously they'll be around anytime you want/can print them. There's no hurry.

I don't really know...
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Old 01-24-2008   #5
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I don't know if I could. But I also wouldn't decry someone who did.

My condolences on your loss.

edit: In favor of printing them is photography as a art, and as an artist that is one way we process and deal with the world around us. This is a sad event. Dealing with it through your art - even if you don't end up sharing the images, may very well help you personally.
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Old 01-24-2008   #6
steamer
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Ghoul, deviant, whatever, some folks need to look at life through a viewfinder. I wouldn't print em, but I don't have dark room. Sorry about your loss.
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Old 01-24-2008   #7
jolefler
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Thanks all, had to make a quick grammar revision, so still here. My thanks for your sympathy, but I'm OK with it as it is. The printing question still looms, though.
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Old 01-24-2008   #8
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Ask your Dad.
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Old 01-24-2008   #9
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A painful situation. My condolences. I think those images will be an important record within the scope of your family history, appreciated beyond your passing. Milestone events are often under-recorded or not recorded at all. Those images/negatives are now a part of your historical record. Protect, archive, and cherish them. You are not a ghoul.

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Old 01-24-2008   #10
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Strange thing is I was at a funeral today of a close relative. I was going to post a thread asking if it was strange to "see" the occasion photographically. For most of the time my photographers eye is finding the shots. i didn't have a camera with me but was panged by it's absence during the proceedings.

Cheers, Lol
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Old 01-24-2008   #11
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its funny last night i went to the hospital to see a friend and his family, they have been going through some hard times lately, he is going through chemo, his wife just had surgery too and the son has gone through 3 surgeries this week for cysts found in his brain, well last night i took my camera with me and i couldnt bring myself to take a picture of this boy he is 17 going to be 18 in 8 months.

honestly i dont know why, when i think about it i should have just done it.
i dont think its wrong its just you choose to record a moment, be it a good or bad moment its all about recording life.
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Old 01-24-2008   #12
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For instance, Annie Leibovitz in her great book "life of a photographer" published series of her children's birth and parents and lovers death over illness... I think some may need those, don't force yourself, just do it if your guts ask you to do it.

By the way her pictures are wonderful, she's probably glad she'd done it. :-)

My best friend passed away last year after a quick disease (he was 23) and I tried to take a picture while he was alive, ill, he asked me not to (he was a photographer too), I respected that in his illness and his death but I sometimes regret not having these harsh shots because my only reason to push the button is to illustrate my life, my intimacy.

Print it for yourself you seem to have accepted it, do you feel the need to?

I'm sorry for your loss, thank you for bringing the topic to life.

L.

Last edited by elude : 01-24-2008 at 11:29.
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Old 01-24-2008   #13
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I assume your father wasn't aware of your taking the pictures. You may not even want to let him know you did it, and just keep them for yourself.

No, you're not a ghoul. I think these are probably priceless photos that will give you wonderful memories of your parents.
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Old 01-24-2008   #14
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My codolences.

While my grandmother was dying this past summer, I often thought about taking her picture. In the end I didn't, because I feared having to explain myself to my family who might have seen the act as callous or as a mechanism to remain emotionally removed from the situation, which may have compounded their pain. That said, however, had I the courage to take the photos, I definitely would have printed them.

I think as an artist you have sometimes to deal with intentions competing with outcomes.
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Old 01-24-2008   #15
Steve Williams
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I spent the last few hours with my father in a hospice and photographed him until the end. I have come to realize that it's just the way I process what's going on. Some consider it disrespectful though I suppose.

I made a short video in school about the connection between photography and memory and it has some of those pictures of my father. If you want to see them the video it is on a post on my blog. It was a post titled -----> RIDING AND MEMORY. It's the YouTube video at the bottom of the post before the comments.

My friend Stephen Dirado has been photographing his father's slow decline from Alzheimers with an 8x10 camera. They can be viewed HERE.

I believe photography can have a place during these times but it is conditional on the intent of the photographer. Others will judge but it is a personal choice.
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Old 01-24-2008   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jolefler

OK, I did. The negs are still hanging to dry from processing 12 hours ago. A quick inspection determines they are printable. I don't know if I should. Would you?
Takes a lotta guts Jo, What you did.

If you had the guts to take the picture and soup the film, you will need less guts to print them. And print them you will.

Like said before, print them when you feel comfortable(if you can call it that!)

Cheers,

Kiu
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Old 01-24-2008   #17
Benjamin Marks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jolefler
A quick inspection determines they are printable. I don't know if I should. Would you?
First, accept my condolences for your loss.

There are a lot of issues to work through here, in no particular order.

1) print or not?
2) print now or later?
3) if print now, then show/tell whom?
4) consideration for your other family members' feelings
5) dealing with your own grief
6) keep negatives or destroy them?
7) disclose/discuss what you have done with father? Other family members?
8) honor their wishes or go your own way?

These issues raised by these questions are deep, may engender intense emotion among the participants and no doubt will be, in part, culturally determined -- also your answers may change with time and possibly with the death of your father.

A well processed silver negative will last 50 years easily. I'd put them away for a while and see how you feel in a year, or five. You made your decision to snap the pix and it is difficult to tell from your post whether you understand your own motivation for doing so.

I do not think that anyone should be denied their own grieving process, but the tricky part is that your grieving process is active (that is -- taking pictures, recording a moment) rather than passive and may have an effect on those around you.

Respectfully,

Ben Marks
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Last edited by Benjamin Marks : 01-24-2008 at 11:58.
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Old 01-24-2008   #18
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My condolences for your loss. And only you can decide whether to print the pictures. But I can share some of my recent experiences in case they are of help to you.

First, my father-in-law passed away last month. I did not take pictures at the regular funeral services but did at the following military service. My wife is very glad to have the pictures of her father's coffin with the American flag draped over it and with the Marines in full uniform proudly showing their respect, not to mention the 21 gun salute and taps. Very emotional but it was the service he wanted and my wife is glad to have the pictures to remind her of his career commitment to the Marines and all that meant to him.

Second, the mother of one of my very best friends passed away earlier this month and the service was just this past Sunday. A family & friends gathering followed and, with his permission, took a number of shots of that gathering. Just last night I emailed him some of the better shots. The response I got this morning is as follows: "these shots are gorgeous......thank you for taking and forwarding them........in truth I wasn't sure about pictures at a memorial celebration but now I am glad that you documented the event. If possible I'd like to print some copies..."

So, as others have already said, I think it very important to capture images of these important events. They can be cathartic now and personally valuable later. The printing, with the implicit notion of sharing them, is a more personal decision. As for the question of ghoulishness, that is more a question of taste and without knowing more specifically what images you took I cannot comment. And presuming they are tasteful then I commend you for having the wherewithal to have taken them and would suggest you consider printing them at least for your own viewing. What you then do with the prints can more easily be decided.
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Old 01-24-2008   #19
Al Patterson
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Sorry to hear about your loss. I'm with the print them later folks. I'm also not sure I'd show them to your father. Wait a few weeks, and see how you feel when you are further along the grieving process.
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Old 01-24-2008   #20
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You're a photographer.

Print the photos.
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Old 01-24-2008   #21
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My condolences. I think I may have done the same thing. Loss and grieving are a part of life, and, if nothing else, photography exists to record life. The loss of my own father and grandmother was sudden and, frankly, terrifying. I functioned, but I have few coherent memories of that day or even that week. If I'd been composed enough to take photos...well, I'm not sure what I'd have done. But I don't think it's ghoulish or deviant.
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Thanks, and regarding my Dad...
Old 01-24-2008   #22
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Thanks, and regarding my Dad...

A former wedding photographer, also some industrial work. We were at the church early (before mourners came)and he directed me around the church to document the funeral surroundings. "Get this from here..." etc.

Sadly strickened with Alzheimer's, he doesn't remember the service today. No, I wouldn't show him the prints of him grieving, I may show him some of the church shots...he won't remember seeing them anyway.
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Old 01-24-2008   #23
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I too recently had a family member die. At my grandmother's funeral I carried the CL around and shot 4 rolls, though there were certain things I couldn't bring myself to shoot. The family didn't think it was odd, or ghoulish because I always take a camera to family gatherings. It gave me just enough detachment to be able to function at the service, and later at the cemetery.

I did develop those pictures, but only checked to make sure nothing happened during development. It might be cathartic, as vrgard said, but I haven't printed any of them, and I'm not sure I could. That said, I went to school with a guy who took photographs of his mother's last days, as she died of cancer. One of those photos was used at the funeral, and became the family's favorite portrait of her.

I would suggest doing what you are comfortable with. This is one of those moments where photography is intensely personal.
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Old 01-24-2008   #24
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jolefler
This is a very precious piece of your personal history, and unless you want to publish this on the first page of tomorrow's NY Times, I do not see anything improper in what you have done.
In these circumstances, there are people who cry, people who sing, even people who dance - so why there shouldn't be someone who takes photos. The way in which a perception of a photographer works, makes this kind of behaviour not only acceptable, but actually quite natural.
A hug.
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Old 01-24-2008   #25
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I think you've done the hardest part in taking the photographs. Print them when you feel happy to do so and simply see how you go from there.

The only real difficulty comes from the reaction of your father and other family members should they see or become aware of the images. Only you can possibly know what their reactions may be.

Now the negatives have been made I see no gain in destroying them, certainly not so soon.

I don't think anyone of us can give you a definitive answer, maybe not even on what we would do in a similar situation. My mother died from breast cancer some 18 months ago after two years of living with it. I wish I had done what Steve Williams' friend did and documented her illness. Such things needn't always be melancholy, my mother's humour shone through in the face of great pain, disorientation and fear. Whilst I have those memories I would love to be able to show people the strength and dignity that she, and therefore us all, are capable of even when we are aware that our lives are rapidly approaching their end.

I hope you're happy in whatever decision you make and my condolences
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Old 01-24-2008   #26
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I don't remember where I saw it, but an art photography magazine had a series of photographs depicting this very same situation.
Sorry for your loss. My business partner lost his father a couple of weeks ago. It's a bitter pill we have to swallow.

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Old 01-24-2008   #27
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I'm sorry about your mother. Mine went suddenly a few years ago. I jumped on a plane without packing any camera. To this day I wish I had. Not all treasures are without pain.
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Old 01-24-2008   #28
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First, my father-in-law passed away last month. I did not take pictures at the regular funeral services but did at the following military service. My wife is very glad to have the pictures of her father's coffin with the American flag draped over it and with the Marines in full uniform proudly showing their respect, not to mention the 21 gun salute and taps. Very emotional but it was the service he wanted and my wife is glad to have the pictures to remind her of his career commitment to the Marines and all that meant to him.

A military funeral does not have that personal touch, it's a salute to a veteran. Well worth remembering in photos. My friends and I recently buried a old shipmate with full honors. Even the family took photos.
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Old 01-24-2008   #29
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Quote:
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A military funeral does not have that personal touch, it's a salute to a veteran. Well worth remembering in photos. My friends and I recently buried a old shipmate with full honors. Even the family took photos.
You're quite right, Ducky, that a military funeral is a salute to a veteran. Interestingly, it was even more emotional than was the regular funeral service if for no other reason than that it was significantly more somber. My father-in-law was always the life of the party, the quintessential "happy Hawaiian" (that was his heritage) so the regular funeral service very aptly matched his spirit. The military service was quite the opposite, particularly with the 21 gun salute and the playing of taps. Let's just say there weren't many dry eyes in the house during that part of the service. Anyways, I do agree with you that the taking of pictures in that setting seemed much more appropriate (almost like taking shots of a passing parade, with all due respect) than had I done the same at his regular services (where I was too busy being the supportive husband and son-in-law to take any pictures). But I guess this also points out that my experiences were likewise different in kind from the original poster's situation/setting in the room with his father where his mother had just passed away.

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Old 01-24-2008   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by feenej
I'd probably wait a few years or let my son/daughter make that decision someday.
I was going to say "dedicated", but you're right.

They used to have death masks "back in the day". Having a camera at hand is less vulturesque than having the lump of wax and a lit candle ready.

I would try to put myself in that situation: if my wife had just died and my son started snapping my reaction away, I'd probably cane him silly. He already put me in a senior home, so I'd probably be already be p'ed off. That is, unless I'm just too tired to care. Or photos of that would be the means to fund a lavish interment.

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Old 01-24-2008   #31
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Old 01-24-2008   #32
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Sorry to hear about this. I agree with the others, you are not a ghoul, I also would have taken the shots. I am a person who likes to hide from certain things behind a lens, always have. Would I print the pictures? I'd print one and see how I felt after. Would I show them to my father? Can't say, but probably not.

As photographers (pro or not, doesn't matter) we live to record moments. Other people paint moments, or write poems about them. We make a picture, it's what we do, you are not a ghoul because you use a camera to keep your memories on.

Take care, be with your family.
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Old 01-24-2008   #33
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Those are great pictures, especially the first one...in my opion, thank you for sharing
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Old 01-25-2008   #34
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They are by Richard Avedon. A series, of his father dying of cancer.
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