Islelanders

funeral

A Nigerian woman, whose husband drowned while attempting to reach Europe by sea, reacts as the coffin is lowered into a grave at Addolorata cemetery outside Valletta October 16, 2012.  Four Nigerian immigrants who lost their lives while attempting to reach Europe by sea were buried once DNA test results confirmed their identities.  The body of her husband was never found.

A Nigerian woman, whose husband drowned while attempting to reach Europe by sea, reacts as the coffin is lowered into a grave at Addolorata cemetery outside Valletta October 16, 2012. Four Nigerian immigrants who lost their lives while attempting to reach Europe by sea were buried once DNA test results confirmed their identities. The body of her husband was never found.

I attended a brief and very poignant ceremony; the funeral of four Nigerian migrants who drowned while attempting to reach a better life, crossing to Europe by sea, crossing the central Mediterranean that has become a graveyard.

Six immigrants died on that crossing in August 2012. Four bodies were recovered, including that of a fourteen-year-old boy.

The burial took place months after the accident, because DNA tests were necessary to confirm the identities of the four who died.

Her husband died moments before a merchant ship came to rescue the migrants. His body drifted away and was never seen again.

I had photographed the 32-year-old woman as she disembarked from a Malta Armed Forces rescue boat in the early hours of August 16. She was in tears. I didn’t know why at the time, though it wasn’t hard to guess why.

I met her two days later, in a detention camp. She was inconsolable at the loss of her husband, the father of her unborn child.

She was released from detention shortly afterwards; much sooner than is the norm for most immigrants. That’s because she was considered a vulnerable case. Procedures and paper work are fast tracked in such cases.

She attended the funeral. She was looking a lot better than she did when I first met her. Her memory of those early days was hazy. Though her husband’s body was not there, being at the funeral and throwing a bouquet of flowers served to give her a sense of closure.

Photographing this sort of event is always a tricky one. There is news value, but there are also privacy issues. You want to strike the perfect balance between capturing the emotion while not being intrusive or obstructing anything. I’m grateful to the authorities, and more so to the immigrants themselves, for allowing me to infringe in some small way on what is essentially a very private and personal matter.

Canon EOS-1D X
Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
Focal length 200mm
Manual exposure
Aperture f/5.6
Shutter 1/250 sec
ISO 400

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