What It Feels Like To Be Photographed In A Moment Of Grief

Where’s the line between news and decency? Is there such a thing especially in this world of social media?

On the night of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., a woman named Aline Marie attended a prayer vigil at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which was packed with local residents and the media. After about 45 minutes, Marie saw the statue of Mary and knelt down to pray.

“I sat there in a moment of devastation with my hands in prayer pose asking for peace and healing in the hearts of men,” she recalls. “I was having such a strong moment and my heart was open, and I started to cry.”

Her mood changed abruptly, she says, when “all of a sudden I hear ‘clickclickclickclickclick’ all over the place. And there are people in the bushes, all around me, and they are photographing me, and now I’m pissed. I felt like a zoo animal.”

What particularly troubles her, she says, is “no one came up to me and said ‘Hi, I’m from this paper and I took your photograph.’ No one introduced themselves. I felt violated. And yes, it was a lovely photograph, but there is a sense of privacy in a moment like that, and they didn’t ask.”

On the other end of the camera was AFP photographer Emmanuel Dunand. Based in New York, he had arrived in Newtown that day. He says he was overwhelmed by the assignment of having to photograph residents during such extreme grief.

“I have two kids,” he told me. “It’s the type of story you never want to cover, ever, and being a dad … all you want to do is put down flowers, you don’t want to take photos.”

But, he said, it was his job to make photos to help tell the story to the world, and in the midst of so much raw emotion, he tried to be discreet with his camera. If he sensed that someone was bothered by the camera, he simply put it down.

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