Documenting grief: A grey area?
A young girl I knew died recently. She had a short, tragic and extremely painful experience with cancer and being present for her cremation was one of the most poignant and emotionally intense experiences of my lifetime. Call it a miracle that God gifted us, but I found it more painful that my memories of my own father’s passing, which have faded and acquired a patina of sweet and self-indulgent nostalgia over time.
At the cremation, some relatives were busy taking videos and pictures of the entire ceremony on a smart phone. Initially, they were unabashed but our shocked and angry stares made them do it surreptitiously, for a bit, till they stopped altogether. That got me thinking about a bunch of stuff. About the appropriateness and ethics associated with documenting the experience of extreme grief and anguish. About how the availability of technology can mess with our minds.
And yet, some of the best portraits I have seen, and even taken, are those that capture a moment of grief, or that have been taken when someone is recalling a past experience that was painful.
It’s a grey area from an ethical perspective. I see grief as one of the most normal and beautiful of human experiences. I don’t consider it taboo to capture it, share it, relive it even. And yet, its a tight rope walk to decide when it is ok and when the act of documentation can cross the lines of comfort and propriety.