photographing history

Taking pictures of something that happened in the past is always a tricky thing. A 200-year old funeral home celebrating its bicentennial, a staple in the small community of Churchville, VA, contacted us to do a story about their business, Bear Funeral Home. And we were stoked to tell the story of a business and a family with so much history and so much pride in their craft. The Bear's funeral home goes farther back than is even documented, and six generations of Bears have run the place. The first two Bears were morticians before the practice was ever licensed by the state, and the third received the 18th mortuary license in the state of Virginia. It was amazing hearing the unique story of the three young Bears who grew up in an apartment above the funeral home, where the last memory of one's life is a creation that is incredibly important to each of them.

To help us along with the huge chunk of history the Bear business spanned, they gave us a bunch of literature and old photographs to research, which was incredibly helpful. Because of the nature of their business (photographing funeral preparation is a tricky thing), I decided to update some of the old photographs by running before and after shots of what the place used to look like and what it looks like today.

The Bears were very gracious with us in letting us handle their story, and we tried to treat it as delicately as possible — writing a story about a business with a 200-year old reputation is no easy task! But Laura, the writer I worked with, did a great job and we put together a nice package for the Sunday paper. And I received a phone call from Judi Delp today telling us her family enjoyed the story and they've received an outpouring of emails and letters since it was published. Always good to hear!

historic diptychs