Photographing Grief

It’s unfortunate that this comes up in the saddest of circumstances, but I was reminded again recently of why it’s better to make photos even when I might feel hesitant about doing so.

It’s unfortunate that this comes up in the saddest of circumstances, but I was reminded again recently of why it’s better to make photos even when I might feel hesitant about doing so.

My step-brother Trevor Chambers suffered a fatal heart attack while out cycling a few weeks ago. He was healthy, 51 years old, and regularly went on extended rides in the long flat areas around his home in Sacramento, California. It’s been a shock for the whole family.

Soon after learning the news, I opened Lightroom and did a People search for him, finding photos of when our families intersected on vacations and visits. But I was disappointed to not find as many images as I expected.

When we flew down for the memorial a couple of weeks later, I made a point of photographing the service. Not to the extent that I would when covering an event professionally, but more than just a few snapshots here and there. Being the “guy with a camera” has its advantages sometimes, because people didn’t make a fuss when I was shooting. (And doing so respectfully, I should add. If you’re obnoxious about it, then the attention is on you instead.)

And so I was able to capture images of the people who spoke, friends who were there, and some shots of Trevor’s wife and sons experiencing the sadness of grief and the joy of celebrating him. This, too, tells the story of his life. It’s important to tell those stories, even if you feel as if you shouldn’t be making photos in the moment.

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