Saturday, November 7, 2009

Still thinking about it all

I need to talk this out. So, I'm putting it here.

On October 3, I and fellow journalists at the Naples Daily News covered the Damas family funeral. For those who don't know, it was for a woman and her five children who were found killed in their home in Naples. Her husband is charged with first degree murder for killing all six of them.

Today, I was looking through the photos again to enter them into the National Press Photographers Association monthly clip contest. I enter this contest every month and, normally, I don't have any problem submitting photos I've taken. But, there are times, like today, that it just seems weird to be entering photos from someone else's tragedy for my own personal gain. At the same time, it's an opportunity for the story to reach more eyes, and for the possibility of a greater good. Still, I'm conflicted.

The funeral was one of the hardest things I've had to cover in my seven years at the Daily News. I didn't sleep for days after. Not only because of the emotion and heartbreak that I witnessed from the family, but also because I was reconciling within myself why it was important that I photograph them in their most painful moment. I worried about what the family must have thought of us. Of me, holding a camera up to their pain. Did they realize I wasn't there to hurt them more? Only to show the world how much their six slain family members were loved and how the act of one man can shatter lives of so many. Also, to show what can happen when society does not stand up hard enough against domestic violence.

I was amazed that day at the Haitian community in Florida. So many who didn't even know the family drove from all over the state to give support.

None of the reasons to do the story are very consoling at the time, but you shoot the pictures because in the back of your head somewhere, you think the larger view will emerge later. Hopefully.

As journalists, we are consumed with the story for the weeks between when we first hear of the slayings and the day of the funeral. Then, for the most part, things calm down on our end. We cover the story as more details are discovered or the court proceedings begin, but really, the intensity is over.

I've moved on to other stories and things that are important to the newspaper and to me on the day to day. But today, it hit me all over again going through the pictures. This family is still missing those six beloved people. My heart goes out to them. I wish I could ease their pain.

I didn't feel right about putting the most intense pictures up on my blog. But, I found this one today. I took it before the family arrived to the burial ceremony. These two children were among hundreds to show up and give support. It could have been taken at church or a wedding. It doesn't tell the story of the day. But, that's ok with me for it's purpose here. I liked it. I like the look and the children's faces. I like the way she is holding his drink and his hand. And I love how grown up they look in their dress and little suit and all the while, a little awkward.


m swall said...

Wow. I hope getting it down in writting has helped. It could be argued either way and is by many. I think what it gets down to is why do you take the pictures and are you comfortable with it. Once you turn them in you no longer really have a say. I guess that would be the beauty of being strictly freelance. What you capture is yours to decide what to do with.When we win the lottery maybe we can afford you that luxury. :o)

Ed said...

You read Lesson in Death and Life by Dave LaBelle? If not, I can send it to you.

moam said...

That's a beautiful photo, Lexey. I was never able to reconcile that sort of tough assignment in my head. It's too haunting. If it helps, one thing I do know is that although it may not seem that way, the families are almost always appreciative that someone is at least paying attention to the fact that they've experienced a profound loss.

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You read Lesson in Death and Life by Dave LaBelle? If not, I can send it to you.

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