The single toughest assignments in my photographic career over the past thirty years have been when I was asked to cover a funeral or memorial service.
Whether it was for the British National Press, the Jewish Communal Press, my role within Israel Advocacy, or as a personal photographer to senior statesman, it has caused me much personal soul searching and questioning of my own morals and principles.
My philosophy as a photojournalist and as a human being is that I will always try to avoid doing anything to anybody with or without a camera that I would not like done to my family or myself.
I have found myself in this situation on a number of occasions throughout the course of my professional career, from the funeral of Level 42 guitarist Alan Murphy as a fresh faced Daily Mirror photographer to the memorial service for Nazi sympathizing Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, victims of the London 7/7 bombings, the Israeli victims of the Mumbai massacre Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, and the funeral of the Fogel family brutally murdered in Itamar.
Each one has taken a piece of me away and made me question my reasons for being there with a camera in my hand and will be etched in my mind for the rest of my life.
If I had not been able to justify to myself the reason for me having to be there, I would not have been, no matter who I was working for.
That is part of the reason I am so disgusted at the ‘selfie” (a photograph that one has taken of oneself typically with a Smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website: Oxford Dictionary) picture that has gone viral since yesterdays memorial service in South Africa for Nelson Mandela of President Obama with Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt.
This was supposed to be a tribute to the life of one of the world’s greatest and well known figures, one for which leaders from across the world and their representatives came to attend, and despite the desperate efforts of the White House and Downing Street spin doctors this morning to say it was some kind of party, in fact, it was a memorial service, which is not, in my opinion, a party.
The only one that comes out of this insulting and disrespectful performance with any dignity is First Lady Michelle Obama who rightly seemed to want nothing to do with it.
As for two Prime Ministers, and the second most powerful man on the planet, they really should have had more respect to remember where they were, and that whether they like it or not, they are always at the business end of a lens, and that behaving like they were at a birthday party or in a bar with their mates was not only an insult to the Mandela family and South Africa, but to the citizens of their respective nations that they were there to represent.