When emotions keep the finger off the shutter release
When I photographed my grandmother, my mother's mother, the last thing to tell me was "To have something to remember me when I am dead".
My other grandmother passed away lately. My father's mother. It has been difficult as she was sick for some time and she had lost progressively her mind before the end. Since I got the Hasselblad a year ago, I had wanting to take a portrait of her but she was already in a very bad shape. And so I kept postponing it. In the end, I couldn't do it. It was difficult to do the whole thing and I also felt like I would be taking the photograph for the grave. I don't know if it is the same for war photographers, but this was a person dear to me not someone unknown. After she died I keep having doubts and keep thinking if I should have pushed myself more to do it. I am still not sure. I do remember in the funeral though that I felt like having my Hasselblad with me, just to make myself feel a bit better.
I have thought of writting this for a long time, even the next day of the funeral, but only now I felt right.
Did you ever have trouble pressing the shutter?
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As you indicate the reason makes the difference. If it's just a shot to add to my portfolio or even less my general collection then it can make a difference. I posted on a thread a few weeks ago that seeing people paying their respects at the graveside would make a nice capture, but for me a no no.
There again if the shot is for a reason such as publication in the media or as a record shot for someone else, then it becomes "the job" and as such the picture will be shot regardless of my personal feelings.
The last picture I have of my mother was taken at her 91st birthday party; a very happy occasion. A year later she passed away. I don't have such a picture of my father, wish I did. So just keep shooting.
There are of course the lines between editorial, professional, and personal work. Often times those lines become blurred--most especially when editorial meets personal. We can't always apply firm rules to every occasion in order to make easy decisions regarding releasing the shutter. Another beauty of shooting film--making hard choices because we don't have the all-powerful delete button.
Someone here once said the beauty of film is that you can shoot it, but don't have to print it.
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I have a lifetime friend (we go back to kindie-garten) who had to move his fathers grave a couple years ago. His father had passed away I think in the late 70's or early 80's.
He had a strong desire to open the coffin and photograph, but respectfully checked with his siblings. Two were not comfortable yet left it to him, and one was an adamant "no". He decided to do it.
When I visited a year and a half ago, he showed me these photos. I have to say they were powerful images. I believe it was more curiosity that won out vs. a morbid sense. I did not even think for a second that he disrespected his father in any way, in fact, I believe it was the opposite.
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"I invent nothing, I rediscover". Auguste Rodin
My Number One Photographic Regret Ever was that I failed to make one or two exposures of my friend Joe and his dad while Joe (age 27) was dying from an inoperable brain tumor. I was there at the bedside with my camera and kept it on my lap thinking: "who the hell am I to use my poor disintegrating friend to expand my portfolio?"
That was the devil whispering in my ear.
The truth is that I should have made the photo. It was a photo that would have shown a difficult truth about my friend, but also it would have been about his father, about the love Joe's dad had for him and the connection and continuity of their lives. That's what pictures are for and like a schmuck I listened to the wrong inner voice and now I have nothing but the memory of how I screwed up and didn't have that photo to pass along. And the recognition that trying to second-guess someone else's disapproval is BS. I won't do it again.
I just returned from a trip to visit my 95-year-old grandmother. Her health has really deteriorated over the last year, she suffered a heart attack, congestive heart failure, and then she fell and broke her arm. About a year ago she had a bout with pneumonia, and a week in the hospital. After she got out, I visited her for a few days, and despite her objections, I made some portraits, (one of which is in my gallery). I didn't make any of her now, as she is having a much harder time. She was in the hospital for half the week I was there, and we finally got her some round the clock care, which she objected to even more than being photographed last year.
It was an emotionally draining week, I was relieved that I made those portraits last year, and didn't feel the pressure of needing to make a portrait this time. It would have been a bit much for her to endure my photographing her on top of everything else.
The portrait is a gift for my children, and nieces and nephews, so they'll remember her face. Thank god I made the photograph when I did.
Next time my grandparents visit me, they'll have to sit down for a moment in my studio! I need a great photo of them while they're still somewhat healthy. My grandmother has been in and out of the cardiac surgery wards 3 times the last 18 months and they are 82 and 80 years old. So I better do it now than (maybe) miss the opportunity.
You should not have pushed yourself. I you did the resulting photos would remind you of the discomfort you had by taking them.
Originally Posted by arigram
Second; My grandmother says that the photos she wants us to keep after her death should be the ones where she is healthy and fresh, not a photos of her ill or, even worse, on the edge of dying.
So I do not think that the photos you would have taken of your grandmother when she was ill would be pleasurable to keep. But that is just my opinion.