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Funeral Photography and Why it is Important

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The first time I was asked to photograph a funeral, I was confused. Why would someone want to photograph something like that? I just didn’t understand. I said no, and brushed it off.

A few years later I attended a funeral of a client, and I instinctively went to my bag to grab my camera… and it wasn’t there. I didn’t bring it. As we all walked out of the church, guests grabbed a balloon the family prepared for a balloon release. I ran to my car and rummaged through my camera bag to get a camera and lens. I only had a small backup camera, but it would have to do. I snapped a few photos of those white balloons in the air. I was so relieved I had a camera with me.

The family has that image framed and printed in their home now- a way to remember all those who came to say goodbye and celebrate their loved one. Each balloon in that photograph represents someone who cared about that person, and came to celebrate their life.

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Months after that funeral, I couldn’t shake the thought of how important funerals are and that they deserve to be documented. Funerals honor and chronicle the life of someone that was loved. Funerals celebrate life. Family comes together. Friends reminisce. Many times there are tears, but there are also smiles and laughter. And funny stories. And love. So much love.

And so I decided next time I was asked to photograph a funeral, I would. The first time I was hired to photograph a funeral I was incredibly nervous, I wondered if people would feel like it was disrespectful or weird. Much to my relief, guests began coming up to me asking to have their photo taken with other guests. I documented hugs, tears, and peaceful moments. I felt honored to document the celebration of the life of someone’s loved one. One the one year anniversary of the death of her brother, the sister emailed me to let me know that the album of that funeral is a prized possession in their family. That is a humbling thing to hear.

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Since that first funeral, I have documented several more. The key to photographing an event such as a funeral is to be sensitive and respectful of those in attendance. I take a lot less photos at a funeral than I do at other types of events. I am constantly scanning the room and area to make sure I am aware of every detail, to make sure everyone is comfortable and feels respected. I am as quiet as possible. I stay in the back of the room. I only photograph people who have made it clear to me that it’s OK. Many times the family who has hired me will let guests know I am going to be there. This also lets guests know I am here with them to celebrate the life of someone they loved. Many times (every time, actually) I shed a few tears, too. When you hear people speak so beautifully of their memories with heir loved one, it is hard not to be moved. I always leave knowing that my job was important.

People mourn in different ways, but almost all my clients have told me that the funeral and the days before (and after) are a whirlwind. Planning, out of town guests, casseroles, cards…. it can be overwhelming. Having the imagery from the funeral or service is a way for them to go back and see who was in attendance when they feel ready. To see all the love that was in the room. To remember the beautiful flowers. It is also a way to have photos with friends and family members who do not get to see one another very often. Clients have told me that photos taken at the funeral or memorial service are healing.
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Funeral photography is not for every family or situation, but I believe for many, it can be a beautiful way of remembering and honoring a moment in time. Of all the types of work I engage 
in as a full time professional photographer, there is no greater honor than to serve a family in their time of need or grieving.
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Woodlawn Manor Wedding :: Scott + Eileen

Photographer: Mary Kate Battles + Jenn Heffner of Mary Kate McKenna Photography
Venue: Woodlawn Manor
Caterer: Savory Gourmet
Florist: Creative Floral Designs
DJ: Adam Feit of Jamology
Dress: Couture by Posh Bridal
Hair/Makeup: Blo Blow Dry Bar
Suit: Mens Warehouse
Officiant: Billy Shulman

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Meridian House Wedding :: Juan + Liz :: A Very DC Wedding

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This wedding!

Liz and Juan met in 2007 in Juan’s hometown of Cordoba, Argentina, while Liz was on a brief exchange. Liz later posted a photo of Juan on her Facebook page entitled “the one who got away” as she was struck by his maturity – and he was in a band. A year later Liz returned to Argentina for a year-long exchange, and a mutual friend reconnected them. Juan impressed Liz by speaking to her in English about politics. After seeing each other just three times, Liz invited Juan to backpack through Brazil with her between semesters. They spent 4 days together in Buenos Aires before the two day bus trip to Brazil, and it was then that Liz knew this was a love like none she had ever experienced. Juan proposed at Ben Folds concert in June, 2014, during Folds’ performance of The Luckiest.
Liz and Juan chose to marry at Meridian House in DC. They had a bilingual ceremony with touching and emotional readings from friends and family, and from the bride and groom. The cocktail reception in the Linden Grove featured hors d’oeuvres from Main Event and entertainment from Sage Strings Quartet. After a delicious seated dinner, Liz and Juan shared a Tango as their first dance. DC Fusion kept the party rocking all night long. At the end, Liz and Juan hopped into a pedicab and were chauffeured into happily ever after.

Wedding Coordination :: Bellwether Events
Venue :: Meridian House
Catering :: Main Event Caterers
Ceremony Musicians :: Sage String Quartet
Band :: DC Fusion
Flowers & Decor :: Petal’s Edge Floral Design
Accomodations :: Courtyard Washington, DC/Dupont Circle

MeridianHouseWedding-EL-01MeridianHouseWedding-EL-02MeridianHouseWedding-EL-03MeridianHouseWedding-EL-04MeridianHouseWedding-EL-05MeridianHouseWedding-EL-06View full post »

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