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Saturday
Mar272010

Bereavement Photography


It is the strangest thought to capture photographically the images of bereavement. When my grandmother passed, my father asked if I would bring my camera to the services. This was Tupelo, Mississippi, home of the birth of Elvis Presley. My grandmother, known to us kids as Mama Mary, was a bit of a celebrity in those circles, as my great uncle twice removed delivered Elvis in exchange for a sack of potatoes. No lie. Not even blue suede shoes...just a sack of potatoes.

So, with the quirkiness that begets a family memorial in Tupelo, we arrived at the service after having visited Elvis's little house, the one bedroom post-natal facility in which he took his breath, a few blocks from where my Mama Mary took her last.

You see, Mama Mary was the epitome of southern flair and hospitality. Visits to her home culminated in a sealed vat of sweet pickles and jarred figs. The trees were meant for target practice as squirrels scattered among the branches dodging the elements of confederate angst. Yet all seemed perfectly unsettled in the web woven from the beauty of Southern charm.

Mama Mary's passing was one we saw coming, yet could never truly be prepared for. In capturing her service it seemed as though I were armed with a lens protecting me from the obvious. By photographing the progression of the day I was able to somehow remove myself and process the event by observing as the fly on the wall, yet also allowing myself the indulgence of soaking in the tiniest of moments, the most intimate of moments, without feeling overtly indulgent.

The following is very personal, and it has taken a bit of time for me to feel comfortable sharing these images as they are quite intimate at times. I learned from this experience, that in capturing her passing, I owned the reality that she was not present. She had passed to another realm and I was only photographing the experiences of our loved ones mourning her loss. She however was free, and soaring, and loving everyone with the sweep of her spirit across the lens. The capture of these moments was not only healing for my family, but for friends who could not attend the services in person. Somehow her passing seemed not as much of an enigma, more of a personal experience they could hold on to and revisit even if through the virtual realm. Even now as I revisit her slideshow for my blog, my heart aches for her fingers settled on my shoulder, the smell of cucumbers pickling in her kitchen , and the aroma of gas leaking from her stove. With all of my heart, I know the world will never be the same without her here, but I also know the world is different because she was...

www.benskophotography.com/slideshows/tupelo

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