The tagline for my blog is “It’s Emotional. It’s personal”. As a photographer I have done lots of pretty girl shoots and they’re ok, but kind of meh overall. It’s been done before, and it’ll be done again. Essentially, they’re throw away photos. Sometimes folks ask me to do photographs that are important to them. I’ve done several weddings, and some family shoots in their homes. I take these photos seriously because the families are trusting me, and opening themselves up to an unblinking eye. It’s important to me to live up to that trust and capture those honest moments of love and life. Hopefully I’ll get the true essence and save it for them for generations to come.
Last week my friend Jen contacted me to ask if I could photograph a funeral procession for her father’s funeral. Wow. I’ve never done something like that, and I wanted to be sure I understood exactly what she had in mind. I knew I didn’t think I wanted to photograph anything in a church service, in particular anyone grieving for their loss, as those aren’t the memories I could imagine wanting to relive or look through again and again. I called Jen and we talked over what she had in mind. Her father was a lifetime member volunteer fireman in the Camden-Wyoming fire company, and was also in the Delaware National Guard. They were planning on having a fire truck to escort the hearse to the cemetery and another with a flag draped to pass under at the gate to the cemetery. In addition, they had an honor guard and plans for a bag piper and to release some doves. Could I photograph those things for her? Absolutely. I was honored to be asked.
Then all I had to do was do it. There were no rehearsals, no second chances. No pressure. Actually, the pressure wasn’t from Jen, the pressure was internal. The pressure comes from the trust. Jen had told me to just do what I do, and she was sure I’d get the best possible photos. While I knew she meant every word, I also knew I couldn’t let her down, or myself down. This was a one time event that couldn’t be re-done. In addition to my new camera, I brought along an older film camera in case there were any difficulties with the new camera. I couldn’t afford to miss photos because a camera had quit for whatever reason. I got to the cemetery an hour before the entourage was expected to arrive. I wanted to be sure I understood where the fire trucks and funeral procession were coming from and what position would be best for capturing the time they came under the banner and then where exactly I needed to be for the graveside services and the honor guard, bag piper and release of the doves. That’s when it started to rain. Heavily. I was prepared with an umbrella and just dealt with it.
With the heavy rain, I couldn’t hear a thing going on with the service. In just a few minutes, it was over. I was soaked from the rain from behind, but, the camera was fine. No need for the backup. (A photographer has his priorities.) I felt like I had gotten the photos though. Was it personal, heck yeah. Was it emotional. No doubt.
Jen told me after I delivered the photos they were beautiful. That was all I could ask for.
I was honored to do these photos. Thank you Jen for trusting me to get them right.