𝙏𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙫𝙞𝙚𝙬 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨 𝙖 𝙛𝙪𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡 𝙥𝙝𝙤𝙩𝙤 𝙤𝙛 𝙖 𝙘𝙝𝙞𝙡𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙢𝙖𝙮 𝙗𝙚 𝙙𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙪𝙧𝙗𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙨𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙫𝙞𝙚𝙬𝙚𝙧𝙨.
Documentary photographer and photo restorer Terri Cappucci talks about the ethical and moral issues of including post-mortem funeral images in her project “Somebody Photographed This.” When photography was still a new field, funeral photos were a way to memorialize and remember loved ones.
Sharing funeral images of children presented the greatest challenge for Cappucci, and she shares how she tackles the ethical, artistic, and moral quandaries of developing and displaying these photos.
Learn more about Cappucci’s restoration project, “Somebody Photographed This,” in our full interview with the photographer.
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: This one collection that you received from your coworker, it had 4,000 glass negatives. I think it’s important to mention how big this project has been and how time consuming. And you’re always uncovering something new. And recently you’ve come across a batch of some post-mortem photographs.
Can you explain why photos like these may have been taken?
Terri Cappucci, Documentary Photographer: Post-mortem photography became popular shortly after photography was actually invented. It was kind of a new way for people to be able to hang on to a memory of their loved ones.
There is one part that’s been hard for me to swallow, which is I found this incredible collection, but they’re of all children there, all different children.
Zydalis Bauer: And I and I know it must raise a lot of questions around ethics. You know, you’re viewing these photos of children who have passed.
What do you grapple with as the creative photographer and person working on this project?
Terri Cappucci: Well, it’s really interesting. You know, I think that an artist can be very expressive with their work and they should be able to put out there what they really feel is a message for people, because most artists have a message in their work. I don’t know if the photographer that took these photographs was an artist or whether they were a photographer for hire. I really don’t know. But I didn’t just start sharing those online. I haven’t. I actually shared one not long ago on my page, and I kind of blurred it out, asking people what they thought: should I share something like this? And several people said they wanted to see it. So, I went ahead and I posted it. And it’s — it’s on there now, you can see it. And there’s been a lot of conversation about how people want to see it. But they you know, they were talking about how they don’t know if somebody’s photographed the dead today, would it be as memorialized and sacred with, you know, all the iPhone technology as it was back then? So, I have, you know, I have this inner conflict for myself that I haven’t really come to terms with yet. I don’t know exactly how I feel about it. The artist part of me says, “Hey, if this were my work and I wanted to put it out there, I would have a statement behind it and do it.” But I just…there’s some things that I’m just not sure I want to cross that line. I’m not there yet.