I consider myself a student of human behaviour. Not just as a photographer but in my personal and professional life. I have always been fascinated by the things people do, how they react to others, and different situations. I also remain cognizant of how I behave, and what drives my actions.
I am particularly interested with how we deal with death publicly. Not the most cheerful of topics. We tend to avoid talking about it, but do interesting things in response to it. For the purpose of this piece I will focus on the role photographs play in our mourning process.
Upon hearing the unfortunate news many take to Facebook to post and tag photos with the individual. I suspect many possible reasons for this. Mostly notably I believe people try to honour the life of that person publicly. In a time of shock you almost don’t know what to do with yourself. There can be a struggle between trying to remain private in grieving but also public in acknowledgment of that person’s impact on your life.
I see different levels of this as well. Some make their display picture a photo of themselves and the one who has passed. Others go beyond this and post galleries, perhaps posting on the timelines of the person with messages directed to them. Some may find this behaviour strange questioning exactly who that post is directed at. Really it is just a method of coping. In these situations some people don’t have an outlet for their feelings and use social media as a way to get it out. For some, posting photos and comments publicly is their method of handling these difficult emotions.
The other important aspect to posting photos is preserving our memories. Not only do we attempt to honour that person’s life but we also reflect on our past. Many of us go straight to photos to remember all of our great memories. This can be both a painful and healing activity. Recalling our past can bring up a sea of emotions. Sometimes it can feel unreal. We hold in our hands a tactile object capturing that person’s essence. It can be so strange holding that object realizing that person is gone. At the same time that person lives on through those objects. You forever remember that person through those moments. You can hear their laugh just looking at their smile. You can picture their mannerisms and quirks.
When it comes to the memorial service you will often see slideshows, videos, or photographs posted. These again can cause a mixture of emotions. You get to re-experience the laughs of great moments with groups of people you shared that with. Perhaps you experience something entirely unique. You can see a photo that deeply resonates with you and you alone in that room. To me that demonstrates the power of a photo.
This piece is not meant to promote photography as a means to get business. I merely want to highlight how important photographs can be to our emotional health. Forget the emotion we falsely try to create with artistic techniques and concepts. The true power of a photograph is how it resonates within each of us. That blurry photo taken with a camera phone can be more valuable to us than any professional photo imagined. To me photos have always been important because of how they make people feel, and how they make me feel.
You may ask what inspired this heavy topic. Generally my
posts are light in tone and laced with sarcasm. Every once in a while I like to
sneak in some real stuff and what impacts me. This particular week is one of
those heavy times for me. It’s this time of year just a little while ago my
close friend Conor passed away. Now this past week my high school friend Jen
passed away. My grieving tends not to take a public form such as posting blogs
about it, but seeing how others do react to these moments I thought I would reflect
on what I do, what I see others do, and what I imagine others do. I question if others go through the same process.
So this week I am breaking out the photo albums and looking back at my trip to Florida, being taught how to shot gun a beer, or recalling the terrible sunburn I got at Wonderland when I fell asleep in the waterpark after taking too much Gravol. This week I’m looking at my pictures, and I know many others are doing the same.