Thursday, January 8, 2009

Photographing the Dead

Whatever happened to the days when loved ones would photograph your corpse in its final repose? I can't remember being at a funeral when I was a kid that at least one guy wasn't walking around with a kodak instamatic with a little cube flash attachment.
Here we have my great-grandmother, Nancietta Polite, age 88, photo by Jeff Kaufman, my grandfather (and her son-in-law). Kaufman gave me my first camera, a cast-off kodak brownie, and then he gave me my second camera, another cast-off kodak. I took very few pictures because I had to pay for the film and developing on my own, but I learned to be very picky about what I would photograph. Now I'm somewhat less picky, but I'll still pull the camera up to my eye and more often than not my internal governor will needle...naw. Wait, there's something better. And, usually there is, as in when I shot a whole roll of a feral cat eating a pigeon and hissing at me.
Anyway, despite the ghoulish nature of photographing the dead, I'm sad that the practice has fallen out of favor. Not only do both of my parents want closed caskets, my father has donated his body to science. He stole that idea from me, and now if I do it it'll seem like old hat. I just feel cheated on so many levels suddenly.


Anonymous said...

So your father stole your "body donation to science" idea?

Well, then...
Why don't you donate your body to ART (

Oh...and your great grandmother's name was actually Nancietta Polite? What a cute "grandma name."

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

Yeah, the goons at Ellis Island Americanized it from the original, Poletti, or Politi. Some sort of spelling. The most interesting tidbit about all of that was it was originally an Italian jewish name.
Grandma Polite died when I was 6, but I can remember her making us buttered pasta and raviolis and whatnot ;) She lived to be 88, never had to wear glasses, and outlived her husband and all of her children.

~wicked~ said...

well, there'll be no photogs at my funeral...unless you want to snap a bunch of ashes :-)