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Saying goodbye to a loved one at a funeral is traditionally a day where you want to be left to mourn in private.
However, there has been a recent trend for funeral photography and videography. Ashley Cain shared intimate photos of the day he laid his daughter Azalylia Diamond Cain to rest, and Richard Blackwood opted to post a series of photos from his mum’s funeral.
It’s not just happy occasions like weddings and christenings that people want to remember, and nobody knows this more than professional photographer and videographer Shaun Foulds who travels to over 300 funerals all around the UK each year capturing the days on his cameras.
He previously worked as a wedding photographer for 12 years, before being randomly asked to shoot a funeral. "I was initially hesitant. I hadn't even been to a funeral before, but it was a lovely family who wanted to make it a celebration of life.
"There was lots of singing at graveside and brightness despite it being the middle of winter. They recommended me to another family and it all went from there.
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"I've quite quickly fell in love with it. Weddings can often be about how much has been spent and outdoing other people, but a funeral is a completely different feel.
"It's about celebrating a life and all the love. The families are very grateful to have me because not many people offer this service."
Shaun shares why people want him there: "Some people want it for the younger members of the family especially if they've lost a parent, so they can watch it back one day and see the tributes and how much of an impact they had on people.
"During Covid-19 I did a lot of live streaming. There was one occasion where it was only me and the minister because the family was in New Zealand. My watch that monitors my heartrate was going crazy, because I felt the pressure of being the only way this family were going to see everything.
"People also put a lot of thought into the little details on the day, and because they are overcome with emotion they don't get to see it all so my photos and videos allow them to take it all in later. They may also just have days when they want to reflect on their life including the end.
"A lot of my clients now want albums – one woman ordered one from me with 250 photos and we looked at them all together over cups of teas. While other families won't look until years after the funeral and they'll message me to say thank you out the blue."
Just like couples want certain photos at their weddings including the walk down the aisle, the first kiss and cutting the cake, families ask for certain moments of the funerals to be captured.
"Before the day we will discuss exactly what they want. Some people want me to get pictures of them crying, others will say to avoid them at those points. Their desire for photos of people arriving, formal group shots, the flowers, the coffin are just some of the aspects discussed ahead of time. Every funeral is different and I respect their wishes."
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Attending funerals can naturally become emotional for Shaun. "Some cultures are really vocal in their grief and it's hard not to get upset hearing people scream. The circumstances really vary, and so it's not always a celebration of life. I've covered events where people have died suddenly, or they've known it was happening and I've helped them record video messages for the day.
"I've done murders, as well as babies and children with open caskets. I have a family myself so it's hard not to think about people I love. Sometimes I have to take five minutes break to compose myself.
"Working so closely with death has given me a new appreciation for life. I'm constantly reminded that it's not forever."
To find out more about Shaun's services visit his website here.
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