Bringing it home

Charles Cowling

Photo by Mel Evans

Denise Meletiche leans over to kiss her son, Army Spc. Pedro A. Millet Meletiche, 20, during a funeral service at the Christ Fellowship Church, in Elizabeth, Meletiche died Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010, during a combat operation in Afghanistan.

At the Dallas Morning News blog, photo editor Guy Reynolds considers the rightness of publishing the photo above. He says, “We often are hesitant to run photos showing the deceased in the paper. I think editors here (and at other papers I’ve worked at) are overly sensitive to publishing these. If the family has invited us to attend and document the event and freely chooses to have its loved one on display then why would we, in the gatekeeper role, disregard their wishes?”

Most newspaper editors would reject this photo in favour of something less direct—a photo in which the “casket is out of focus and in the background,” and he prints an example. Here’s his reflection on this practice: “Out of sight, out of mind? Are our readers’ sensibilities protected by us deciding that they don’t need to see the face of the dead?”

Here in the UK we do not have the tradition of the visitation where dead people are displayed for a final farewell. For that reason, we are much more easily shocked by photos of dead people—even if they’re out of focus and in the background. So I wonder what effect a photo like the one above would have on people in this country. And I wonder what its effects would be on attitudes to the war in Afghanistan.

Do read Guy Reynolds’ blog here.

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4 years ago

And some postmortem photographs of dead soldiers are really touching:

7 years ago

Ok. So, I’m late to the discussion…..As an American Funeral Director and Embalmer, I can tell you first hand the healing and peace that comes from seeing your loved one in a ” restored and restful” appearance. Suggesting that any mother have to see her son who died in tragic circumstances, “au natural” or unmade, is cruel and heartless. My job is to lessen the terrible blow of death. It’s still real. It still hurts, but I can help. Most people in American are there at the death of their loved ones. They have seen them after life has ended.… Read more »

Blair E. Morrow
9 years ago

When I wasn’t around to do that, my clients walked around on their daily life with a few long lashes picking out from their natural ones. A wide array of factors can contribute to the delay or late-stage failure of promising products. There are different brands for every part of the eye.

11 years ago

Hypocrisy and inconsistency everywhere one looks – really dead people cannot be shown, while tv and movies present facsimiles of death by the millions each day! And as Jonathan says, when real death appears, it must be sanitized to maintain our illusions.

Our death, unfortunately for us, will not be a facsimile of anything. We should be as aware of that as possible – the REAL face of death in the media could only benefit us.

(That the media might exploit this to increase sales is a different issue…)

11 years ago

It may be a dead person, but it looks more like something from Madame Tussads than someone who’s presumably had his guts torn out by a bullet.

I wouldn’t want to see that in a newspaper; but if it was one of my sons I think I’d feel as if I were betraying him if I didn’t see his body in that condition, and betraying him even more if I had him sanitized in the way this photo appears to show.