Why Do People Think Funeral Selfies Are A Good Idea?

The Truth Is You Are Not The Only Person Taking Funeral Selfies

Mumbai, India has declared 16 no-selfies zones after linking it to several deaths. Take a selfie picture in coastal areas without railings, barriers or guards and you will get a fine. Why? Since 2014, more than 50 people around the world have died as the result of taking a selfie!

If there were one place you would think should be a no-selfie zone - that would be a funeral. Think again.

I want to suggest that the digital trend is showing anything but the case. A casual search on Twitter or Instagram and it reveals that taking selfies at funerals is now normal. Digital technology is allowing professional photographers to shoot reportage style photo shoots. These image galleries are shared online to remember and memorialise ones they have loved. 

How Popular is The Selfie?

For the uninitiated, a selfie, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (yes, for real) defines a selfie as:

"A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media."

93 Million selfie pictures are loaded up to the Internet each day. Among those millions of images are 1000's of people at funerals. A 2015 survey of 2700 people attending a funeral service asked how many had taken a selfie? 48% said they had taken the time to snap themselves on their mobile phone.

Should Funerals Be A No-Selfie Zone?

How do you feel about people taking pictures of themselves at funerals? Does it seem inappropriate? Is a funeral a place where your mobile phone should certainly be kept in your pocket?

Funeral photography is not a new phenomenon. The Victorians loved to pose with dead relatives and thought nothing strange about it. The invention of the daguerreotype in 1839 brought portraiture to the masses. Many of those old portraits were macabre photos shoots with dead relatives.

Why Do People Take Funeral Selfies?

The funeral selfie is about connecting what is happening in someone's real world with their network online. Social media is how many people relate and connect with the world. Social media allows me to share my new job, my new handbag, my lunch and a day the sea. Death in someone's family shapes their world. People feel natural about sharing that chapter of their life within their virtual world and community. 

The idea of a “social funeral” or online funeral represents a significant change in attitude.  The way people are treating death and its traditions, forms and celebrations of life around it, have changed forever.  A funeral selfie is just the start as live streaming funerals with mobile apps like Periscope are not as unusual as you may think.

Funerals are places where family and friends seek comfort and support. Of course, help from those present. Increasingly, support with those who are “present” virtually. Social media is about sharing my life. It is about sharing in my difficult days as well as happy moments. It is like, "here is where I am right now in my life."

I have had some instances as a celebrant when someone, usually a young person, though not always, walks to the coffin and snaps a picture. You can see that some of the older members of the family seem shocked, but for younger people it is not an issue. What about professional photo shoots?

2 Excellent Examples of Funeral Photographers.

New trends in digital photography for sharing images online has opened up the possibilities for professional photographers to offer funeral photo shoots for the family. The motives are to capture a memory, to create a moment for future generations. If you are interested in seeing how creative, memorable and sensitive photographers approach a funeral shoot, check out these two excellent examples.

Allison Burke 

Allison specialises in funeral photography. The reaction she gets from people when she tells them this is often a surprised “Why“? I would encourage you to read her answer why from her website. It is poignant and touching read that reveals significant changes in attitudes towards death in a digital age. 

Rachel Wallace

Rachel writes, "I believe that photographs of a funeral are an immense help to the immediately bereaved and a touching tribute to and memory of the deceased and their life." Rachel appeared in an Episode of "Dead Good Job" a BBC2 production on the different aspects of the funeral industry. She has also written several articles for magazines within the funeral industry.

What are your thoughts about funeral photography? As a Funeral Director, it could be a new service to add to your business. Creating online memorials and obituaries are growing in popularity. Do you know a local photographer? Could you suggest it as an option? A memory book in a reportage style like Allison Burke uses would be a fantastic resource to show how your business is different.

Have you used photography at a funeral? I will love to hear from you if you have.

Please contact me.