A year and a half ago, Kristin Ohlson told readers of Miller-McCune.com about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a now 6-year-old Colorado nonprofit that takes pictures of babies who have died as a memento for grieving families. While some might see a tasteful picture of a mother holding their deceased child as a touch morbid, others view the black-and-white photos as an important gesture to memorialize a loved member of the family and to help the survivors in grieving.
Anthropologist Linda Layne of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute told Ohlson, “For professional photographers to do that kind of quality work is a huge gift to the parents. We take photos of each other all the time, even with our phones. But when you have lights and do a sitting with a professional that is a clear cultural marker of kinship. It expresses that this child is a valued member of the family.”
One very-photographed family apparently felt the same way.
The Duggars, stars of TLC's reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” lost what would have been their 20th child to a miscarriage on Dec. 11. They called volunteer photographer Deborah Billingsley, who is affiliated with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, to help them memorialize their lost daughter, Jubilee Shalom.
Perhaps just an artifact of their family’s notoriety, the pictures – a tiny hand resting on a parent’s finger, for example — made their way to the Internet after being handed out at an allegedly private memorial service in Arkansas (reported on by People.com). Once online, the images and the motive behind them served as grist for the chattering classes, with most accounts supporting the family’s decision to have the pictures taken.
But The Washington Post’sOn Parenting blog asked, “The family’s decisions raise questions about the lines between public and private. A miscarriage can be devastating. Here, the sadness may well be heartfelt, but is it also being used as fodder for ‘reality’ drama?” With the images eventually posted on the Duggars’ very promotional family blog, it’s worth wondering if in this case a noble intention has devolved from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to “Ace in the Hole.”
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