January 13, 2010

Documenting life...


{Oahu HI - heaven on earth}

I'm in Hawaii as you read this. I got on a plane yesterday last minute to come and document the next couple days of the life of Natalie Norton and her family. She recently lost her young son while visiting family in UT. (And on a side note, if your children have not been vaccinated yet, PLEASE do so NOW!!!) I'll be back on Saturday. This will be by far the hardest thing I've ever been asked to document.

The whole flight over yesterday I kept thinking of how I would approach this. This is definitely not a wedding, family session, or any form of commercial work. It is like nothing I've ever photographed before. It is literally documenting life as it is, unedited. I watched James Nachtwey's documentary "War Photographer" looking for any kind of insight on documenting something as heavy as a funeral. Obviously, this is not the same as documenting war but there will be some very similar emotions right out in the open concerning the loss of a loved one that are really close to home for me. My son Weston was in the same PICU at the same time as Natalie's son Gavin up at Primary Children's Hopital in Salt Lake City. The only difference is our son came home to his family, and Natalie's son went to a different home.

Wish me luck today. And thank you for your prayers and thoughts for this family.

20 comments:

Amorology said...

Jon, what a special and beautiful gift you will be able to give them through your photography. Thinking of all the Nortons this week and sending prayers their way.

Molly said...

Good luck, you will do wonderfully, I'm sure.

Thanks for sharing her story earlier. My heart, like thousands out there, broke in half for her and her family. My prayers to you as you document the funeral and to her family.

Cate said...

My heart goes out to you and to Natalie's family. Good luck with this difficult task.

Tracee Breeze said...

It does seem strange at the moment to be capturing something like this on film, or otherwise. However hard this moment is they will look back and in time, in a unique way be able to love whatever you capture. My husband insisted on filming the moments my son took his last breaths in my arms. It was so hard for me to let him do, it felt wrong to document pain and loss in that way. And even tho I have only gone back and watched it once or twice, its a comfort to know that I have a tangible memory somewhere.
Good luck Jon, but I am sure as her friend you will be able to do this beautifully.

Annie @ MarryYouMe said...

Good luck Jonathan... prayers for you as well as Natalie's family today. You'll find the strength you need in the spirit.

jenna said...

How sweet that you'll be there for her. She'll treasure your work. I remember looking at the pictures of her with the baby on her blog and thinking that those will be among her most treasured images. God speed :)

Jodie Allen said...

I volunteer for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep so I've been in your shoes. The hardest sessions are ones where we photograph the baby dying in their parents arms as they redirect care. While I'm there, I try as hard as I can to be a fly on the wall. Only moving when I have to. Being as quiet as I can. The less they notice me the better. You will do an amazing job and they will forever cherish those photos.

I do want to mention, as it has happened to me when photographing the funeral... some people will not understand. They will think it's morbid to have you there snapping away. Especially the older generation. I didn't think of this the first time I did it and it shocked me how many people gave me bad looks or said unkind things. Luckily, with Natalie being a photographer you shouldn't have as many issues... as I'm sure she's told her friends and family you'll be there.

Anyway, good luck...you're going to be such a blessing these next few days and I'll be praying for you!

Adhis said...

Yeah- I took photos at a graveside service a couple months ago. I wasn't even really sure what to capture, and I hadn't been asked to do it, but I felt compelled to do it.

At the end, one of the siblings of the young man who had passed on asked for copies and the dad was grateful for the photos.

Inspiration will come.

Larry said...

What an experience this will be for you. My heart aches for the Norton family and I wish I could be there, too. I'm happy that you get to do something so incredible for them. I know the Spirit will be there...you'll see it in the faces of Richie and Natalie, how their faith will get them through this experience. I look forward to seeing the images and moments you capture on this trip.

M said...

Wow, what an honor for you. Trust in yourself and know that they trust you so much to ask you to capture the most sacred of experiences.

My prayers are with the family and YOU.

dbimagesblog said...

As a mother who just lost her baby boy a few weeks ago, I can atest that ANYTHING you capture will be important for the family. Thank you for doing this for her...she will forever be grateful, of thise I'm sure.

aubrey said...

As someone who has photographed in a very similar situation, you are giving them an absolutely irreplaceable and bigger-than-yourself gift.

Prayers and love to the Norton family, and to you.

Macy said...

I know you'll do a beautiful job and I know Natalie is so grateful you'll be there - as a friend and to document.

Though my dad is a funeral director, I'd never heard of or thought it was a good idea to photograph things like graveside services or other events associated with a funeral - until my own mother died unexpectedly 10 years ago. A close family friend took photos at the graveside, and I'm so grateful. We were in such a mental fog at the time, I truly don't remember who was there. Except for the photos. And to look back at them now and remember how supported and loved we were is such a comfort.

You'll know what to do. And you'll do it well.

Kahilau said...

Jon,
This is Kahi Kekauoha (Winget). You shot our wedding for my dad Sam. Thank you for that. WOW, what a blessing you are to the Nortons. Such a thoughtful and priceless gift you are giving them in a time when their minds are swirling and they deserve to be "in the moment". That really is one of the coolest things I have ever heard of! The spirit of ALOHA LIVES!

Kiera said...

I have no doubt that you will instinctively know how to approach this very emotional day.
Natalie is lucky to call you her friend.
I pray for her family.
My heart aches for them.

Paul Gero said...

Keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers...

Paul, NIcki, Kate and Spark

teaformeplease said...

I know as a Mother who had to bury her baby way too soon, how much Natalie will treasure your gift to her.
What a very special person you are to do this
Keeping you all in my thoughts
Kristine from Canada

Kelli Eudis said...

Good luck. You will do awesome...as always and you will give the Norton's something so incredibly amazing and irreplaceable! My prayers continue to be with them.

Damaris said...

I did documentary school for 2 years and few things prepare you for this even and MA degree. Besides, I think my program was full of crap so whatever.

I am sure you were guided by the spirit and by love and by the talent that you have.

What an experience. Can't wait to hear, maybe even see, more of it.

emlizalmo said...

Jonathan...you will do a wonderful job. You are a kind loving person, a devoted father. You will know exactly how to document this painfully difficult time for your dear friend. I have no doubt about that. I've thought a lot of Natalie (who I've never met)over the last couple of days. I imagined her grief and her pain. I'm so sorry that this ever happens to people, yet I am so greatful for the peace she has been able to feel amidst all their turmoil. Good luck. You will be great.