Reader Poll – Roadside Memorials: OK to Document?

Is it OK to Do a Photojournalism Piece on Roadside Memorials?

Did you ever see those white crosses with pictures, candles, signs, etc. on the side of the road where people have died in an automobile accident? Me too, the whole phenomenon has fascinated me for as long as I can remember.

I always want to get out and look at them, to figure it all out. Who was it? How old were they? How did it happen? Who built this memorial? So many questions and usually not many answers.
Now, I carry a camera with me just about everywhere that I go. I always try to grab shots of things that strike me as weird, funny, cool, or interesting. Some of my stuff interests people and some makes them scratch their heads.

Every time I see one of these roadside memorials, I want to get out and document the whole thing. The problem is, I’m usually either with my wife and/or daughter. Both of them think it’s creepy, inappropriate, and disrespectful. Plus, nobody ever wants to stop and wait around for me to do my thing. If I tried to go out and find these memorials, while I’m alone, I probably never would anyway.

So, here is my question: Is it OK to shoot and document these memorials or am I just a creepy freak. I really don’t want to offend or gross anybody out. Here’s your chance to put your two cents in. You may be determining a future article.

Answer the poll and if you have a moment, leave a comment below. I will try to answer all comments A.S.A.P.



Please leave a comment below if you would like to expand on your feelings.

If you like this article, you can subscribe to read all of my new posts. SUBSCRIPTION LINKS: RSS IconSubscribe to RSS Feed | RSS IconSubscribe to Comments | Subscribe Via EmailSubscribe via Email Attribution: the photo "Roadside Memorial - Tie Siding, Wyoming" is used under the Creative Commons licensing. It was taken by Flickr user Gregor_Y. Click here to see more of his pretty cool work. Thanks, Gregor_Y.

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16 responses on “Reader Poll – Roadside Memorials: OK to Document?

  1. Greg Y

    Hi, Chris,

    Thanks for checking, thanks for citing and linking, and thanks for choosing my image! I’m honored.

    I obviously don’t think it’s creepy at all to capture roadside memorials, in word or in images. I’m pretty confident that the reason those memorials are built in the first place is that someone wants a) the world to recognize their loss, and b) their lost loved one to be remembered longer, and c) the death of their loved one to take on a deeper meaning.

    So in my view, our taking the photo or researching the story to write about it probably furthers the memorial builder’s goal.

    As for your survey, all three of the first choices apply, in my opinion. If your conscience says it’s ok, and you’re respectful, go ahead and make an interesting photo or write your interesting thoughts.

    — Greg

  2. Chiron613

    I think it would be entirely appropriate. Consider this: these are *memorials*, created to help preserve the memory of someone who has died. Photography is a way of memorializing, too, preserving something that may often be removed by vandals or road workers or others.

    You’re not (I think) being morbid or creepy. You’re exploring one more facet of our lives, recording what’s there. You’re not making it up, or using it for sensationalist purposes. I believe most people would figure you’re honoring the dead in your own, unique way.

  3. merritt

    i think the memorials should be outlawed. put one up on my property and it will be gone the next day. put it up again and you will be arrested for trespassing. should be really, really outlawed on public property.

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