The Death Photographers of Varanasi

I’m always curious about the uses of photography outside of art and journalism. Whether it’s vintage mugshots, street photographers doing on-the-spot shoot and print portraits at large events, the box cameras of Afghanistan, or the TSA’s instagram, there’s always something fascinating about photography not for it’s own sake or for communication, but rather for a purpose, official or not. Maybe it’s to preserve a memory or a moment, maybe it’s to show that a job has been done….whatever the reason, these photos are different from the sorts of photos I take.

That’s why I found this short video about the death photographers of Varanasi (embedded above) so interesting. The photographers ply their trade on the ghats on the banks of the Ganges where bodies are cremated. They take photos of the dead bodies for a few dollars per print (go to 3:15 in the video above to see a photographer explain his prices). Their clients are usually family of the deceased and they want the images for a variety of reasons: some want to commemorate the cremation, some want photos for loved ones who couldn’t be there, some need images to prove the death to local governments. The video was produced by Seeker Stories, part of Discovery Digital Networks.

(via Petapixel)

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