Is It Disrespectful to Have a Photoshoot at a Graveyard?
Halloween season is in full swing now and I am seeing more and more cemetery-themed photoshoots happening. Some are just for fun while others are to say goodbye to that previous decade of numbers. Whatever the case may be, is it disrespectful?
I recently saw a post on Facebook over the weekend and the person posting it witnessed a photoshoot happening of a group of girls all in black doing a semi-boudoir-style photoshoot. Basically, they're clad in scandalous attire, not that I am complaining, and they pose around the graveyard and such. Now, I get it. It's a cool scene and scenario and it makes for some amazing photos and memories. However, the person that posted it was quite offended. They have every right to their opinion and I am not disagreeing with them about their feelings towards this happening whatsoever. It really just got me thinking about my own opinion on how if this trend that has been happening for quite some time is good, bad, or in the middle. My first thought is, is it legal?
Most cemeteries around our area are built on private property and maintained by the owner of said property. Although you can freely visit the site of your choice, you can still legally be asked to leave if the property owner does not want you there. Anyone, alive, can go and come from the area as much as they want, but you can legally be kicked out if need be. I remember my grandmother and her best friend would walk one of the cemeteries in Lake Charles as exercise and they'd each point out their gravesites as they'd pass them. What about respect?
I actually have a photographer friend in New Orleans that does graveyard photoshoots for these types of settings. I reached out to him to see where his moral compass is on it. Of course, we both made a joke about how the residents never seemed to complain about the photos. He also mentioned that he tends to stay away from "newer" places. In New Orleans, they have sites that are easily over 100 years old and most people flock to those areas to take pictures of the headstones in general. As for having a photo shoot on the property, he told me that he talks to each client and that everyone will respect the area. There will be no leaning, standing, or manipulating headstones or grave sites. He always blurs out any times of headstones or tries to photograph headstones from the back. That makes a lot of sense and does seem better than some other photos I have seen of this style. My next question was, how would I feel if it was my own loved ones or even my own grave after I am gone?
Personally, if it was my own grave. Have at it. I am sure my loved ones spent enough money on my headstone, might as well show that thing off. One set of my grandparents is buried out at Big Woods Cemetary in Vinton. They are near a chapel on the "old side" of the cemetery. The photographer in me would LOVE to do a photoshoot near that chapel. If I were to happen to see Wayne Conrad's headstone in the photo, I would probably make the joke that Papa Doe made it to the big time in a photoshoot. Not everyone thinks like me, however, so what is the answer?
I really don't know the answer. I would say if you just must have a photoshoot at a graveyard, be as respectful as possible. The idea of finding OLD sites seems to be better than ole Bessie that died a few months ago. I wouldn't go when anyone else is around so as not to disturb anyone visiting loved ones in the area. Graveyards are still a place of peace and reflection for people to talk to their loved ones that have passed. If you are reading this after I am gone, feel free to go for it on my gravesite. Bring lasers and party lights and let's have fun. If you get in trouble, just show them this document that I give you permission to have a party on my grave. At least I would still be invited to the party and not miss out on a good time!
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