Don't you think it's a bit disrespectful to be taking pictures of the deceased? Not trying to sound rude. Genuine question.
No offence taken. Personally, no, I don’t think it’s disrespectful in this particular case.
In the US we’re very “rest in peace” about our dead. In fact, we should consider adding “do not disturb” to every toe tag because we tend to get corpses out of sight as quickly as possible so they can go decompose by themselves. Sometimes there’s no physical interaction between the recently deceased and non-professionals at all anymore- “direct cremation” is our (increasingly popular) phrase for that.
That isn’t the case everywhere in the world though. In many cultures death still has a public face. Just look at festivals like Ma’Nene in Indonesia or Dia de los Muertos in Mexico or Festa di Tutti i Santi in Italy. And check out the link below to my piece on the putridaria of Italy. In that specific example, the public display of human remains is linked to very important religious concepts. So in that context looking at and tending to corpses in public is respectful, whereas leaving them alone to decay isn’t.
These mummies, for example, were never meant to just rest in peace. They were originally buried knowing that they would be dug up and put in the church’s ossuary. The only hitch was that they accidently mummified. In fact, after they were discovered in 1917, a monk floated the idea of reburying them but no one wanted to because the residents considered the mummies to be an important part of their history and members of the community.
I’ll be the first to admit that I walk a line on this blog when I photograph human remains and holy objects. But there are a few other factors that dictate what I photograph and when. For example, I always have permission to photograph and if I don’t know, I ask. I would never photograph a private event- be it a funeral, a religious service or an autopsy. And I always try to get the full history out there- that’s why I’m working on a well-researched piece about these guys- they’re real people and they deserve to be more than creepy photos on the internet.
Ever heard anyone say that? It’s a safe bet that you have if you’re a contemporary Native American. Or, as my friends in Canada put it, a member of a First Nation.
And those were the exact words that I heard this past Saturday. Standing in front of a group of fifty sixth and seventh graders at Henry Hudson Middle School (And no, I shall not go into a rant about its namesake right now) in the Bronx.
I’d just finished doing my presentation to that very polite audience. Great kids. The very fact that they were here spending a sunny Saturday morning in school spoke volumes about their motivation. I’d been introduced as an American Indian author.
And as I told a story and then talked a little about my two YA novels—Wolf Mark (Lee & Low, 2011) and Killer of Enemies (Lee & Low/Tu, 2013)—which had just been given to each of those young men and women, they’d listened attentively.
“So,” I said, “any questions?”
And that was when, in the second row, the young woman wearing a scarf had raised her hand and made that comment. “You don’t look like an Indian.” [read more]
You know, funny story: There’s this craft store called Michaels. Look, my sister knits, and she goes to Michaels. So my sister called me and she’s like, “Oh my god, I’m at Michaels, picking up yarn. You have a poster at Michaels.” I’m like, “What?” She’s like, “There’s a poster, there’s a Falcon poster at Michaels.” I’m like, “Holy s**t!” She’s like, “I’m gonna come and pick you up, and we’re gonna see your poster in this store.” So she picks me up and we go to Michaels.
We go in, and I see the poster and I’m like, “Oh, this is….” She’s like, “I know, I know.” I said, “I’m gonna sign these posters.” I was like, “That would be amazing, you buy a poster and it’s like, actually signed by the Falcon.” Like, it would blow my mind. So I go to the front, I buy a Sharpie, I run back to the back of the store. And she’s like, “I’m gonna take a picture of you signing it.”
I’m in this store and I’m signing all the posters. The manager comes out, he’s like, “Hey, whatcha doing?” I was like, “Oh man, I’m signing these posters so when people buy ‘em, they’re signed.” He’s like, “Well, people are not gonna buy ‘em if they’re signed.” And I was like, “No, no, no, it’s cool. I’m pretty sure there won’t be a problem.” And he goes, “Yeah, but it is gonna be a problem, you’re messin’ up my inventory.” And I’m like, “No, my man, trust me. I mean, I’m the Falcon, that’s me!” And he goes, “Yeah, right. You’re gonna buy those posters.” I said, “What?” He’s like, “You’re gonna buy all those posters or I’m gonna call the police.”
He rolls up all the posters and goes to the front of the store. And I had to buy like 60 Falcon posters that I signed in Michaels.
”—Anthony Mackie getting in trouble for signing his posters at a Micheals (x)