Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Photography at religious events is out of control

So, I'll be honest. I have an overly fierce reaction to photography during religious events. There is simply no good reason for people who should be prayerfully attentive to what is going on, to be Facebooking baptisms, ordination, and... funerals?! People taking "selfies" during what for many people in attendance will be the most emotional moment of the year is puerile.

The clergy are not above this behavior either and we are setting a bad example. There is no good reason to take photos of people receiving communion nor at any other moment where complete attention should be on what is going on (kneeling before the cross, at the anaphora, etc.). We really need to let the holiness of the moment be something we capture in our hearts more than in our Facebook timelines.

Am I opposed to all photography? Far from it. As anyone who has read the blog for any time can attest, I am quite fond of photos from moments in the life of our Church (with one glaring exception), but the best of our photography is often taken by someone chosen specifically for the task and not over the shoulders of others. Some priests make a special point of defining what is acceptable for photo taking (before or after service, no flash photography, etc.) either in bulletins or before a service is about to begin while others allow anything.

Does anyone know of a jurisdictional or diocesan directive in effect anywhere that deals with this topic? It would be interesting to read.


  1. I should think that the canons of common sense and reverence would dictate against this type of behovior. Word of adviceL Keep smat phpone, dumb phones, and the like out of the church during services, except for photographers who are assigned to do so. even there this should be rare and unobtrusive.

  2. I just wrote down my thoughts on this topic for my newsletter. It would be interesting to see what others could add.

    Taking pictures during services

    Everyone loves to have a few photos of special events in Church especially weddings and baptisms. There is a lot of beauty in our services. Dostoevsky wrote “beauty will save the world.” Thus, photography has become very common in the Orthodox Church. One of the issues that has arisen from our desire to have many pictures is that often time the camera man or woman seems to be separate from the worshiping community. This means that the camera man/women do things that we would not normally do during our services.
    • As a general guideline, we gather in church to worship and encounter the living God. When Moses encountered God in the burning bush he was asked to take his shoes off because the ground on which he stood was holy ground. The Church is a sacred space set aside for worship; our inner attitudes must reflect this whenever we enter the church, camera or not.
    • No flashes in the dark. When the lights are out at church please avoid using the flash. If you want a picture in the dark there are lenses you can purchase. Flashes can be blinding and distracting.
    • If the priest is in the center of the church, as is the case for baptisms and weddings, do not walk between the priest or bishop and the altar. You can walk behind the priest, towards the entrance of the church but never between the priest or bishop and the altar.
    • Keep a respectful distance. Let us not profane sacred moments like the first time one receives communion. Most people do not want a camera in their face especially when they are sincerely praying. Many people become self-conscious of how they look, which is to say the presence of the camera can distract from the service or sacrament they are partaking of.
    • Camera men/women should blend into their surroundings. They should abide by the same rules as the worshiping community. In other words, they are asked to avoid drawing attention to themselves and becoming a distraction to others.
    • When in doubt, ask the priest, get a blessing. Every Orthodox community is different; these guidelines are for our parish. When you visit other parishes be respectful of their guidelines which may or may not be more strict than ours.