Indian Man Makes Living Photographing Families With Corpses Of Relatives

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

An Indian man makes about $500 a month taking photographs of the dead with their relatives just minutes before they are cremated.

“Initially I felt awkward doing this job but now I’ve got used to it – it doesn't feel bad anymore,” Shankar Jha, 24, of Varanasi, told the New York Daily News.

Jha was only 12 the first time a person approached him along the Ganges River and asked him to take a photograph of him and his family next to the body of his father.

“It was very odd but I realized that there was a need for this kind of thing so I set up my own shop on the Ghats of the river Ganges and soon people started ordering my services,” he said.

While he knows many people wouldn’t take such work, he believes he provides an important service to grieving families in Northern India.

“I’m helping people have an affordable and treasured souvenir of their dead family member,” he said. “It’s something to treasure forever when they’re gone.”

He set up shop along the sacred river, where Hindus carry the dead for cremation.

“If I have a quiet day with just a few orders I do approach passing families asking if they want photos,” he said. “Most accept; there’s only a couple that say no. I feel I’m helping people remember the last face of their dead relatives.”

It takes him less than three hours to develop the film, roughly the same amount of time it takes the families to cremate their loved one. They must stay until the body is completely burned to ash, according to Hindu traditions.

In the midst of nationwide parliamentary elections, India has seen its fair share of violence and death this week.

A 35-year-old man in Uttar Pradesh Monday threw gasoline on himself and tackled a local politician. The man later died in the hospital Tuesday. The politician, Kamruzzama Fauji, of the Bahujan Samaj Party, is in critical condition with burns over 80 percent of his body, CNN reported Wednesday.

"People were just too shocked to know what was happening," local photographer Pankaj Kumar Gupta told reporters.

Sources: New York Daily News, CNN