Grief beyond words: farewelling a slain family
On July 18 in the quiet leafy suburb of Epping, residents woke to find that their daily paper had not been delivered. The community would soon learn of the brutal murders of newsagency owner, Min Lin and his family who were found bludgeoned to death in their beds.
In the weeks to follow, a strong sense of community support and condolence for the Lin family was shown with cards and flowers laid on the newsagency shop front for the only surviving member of the family, 15-year-old Brenda.
On August 8, over a thousand mourners from the local community paid their respects to the five slain Lin family members at the Badgery Pavilion in Homebush.
The procession of the five coffins were lead into the pavilion by Buddhist monks ringing chimes. Each ring of the chimes brought a sense of calm, silence and sorrow in me, almost like a hypnotic chant, instilling the brutal and tragic murders of the five innocent souls who now lay in their caskets.
Most people do not agree with the press intruding on anyone’s grief. However, the event did not only affect one family, but it also shook a whole community. As the photographer for the Northern District Times, I wanted to document a sense of closure and farewell for the people of Epping. As a photojournalist, I played the role of the impartial observer, capturing the event as it happened before my eyes, while the invited community gathered to pay their respects to the Lin family.
During the service I held my composure for a large portion of the funeral until Min Lin’s parent’s, Lin Yang and Zhu Fengqin were led to the stage. I had to stop myself from getting emotional. The grandparents spoke in their native tongue, but like all in the pavilion, I was still able to understand the pain and capture that vulnerable moment as Zhu Fengqin wept and clung to her husband. It was later translated that Fengqin expressed a simple sentiment of never being able to cook for her grandchildren ever again.
My image of orphaned 15-year-old Brenda Lin and her grandmother captured the raw emotion of the day.
The contrast of facial expression showed a strong and composed Brenda with her distraught grandmother leaning on her shoulder as they sat in front of the five coffins. I took this shot through wreaths that were laid behind the caskets. This angle made it more difficult to get a clear view of the grieving relatives, however, it was important for me to remain unobtrusive. I was pleased to see that other media outlets respected the family’s personal space and mourning.
I also felt Zhu Fengqin’s pain when she cried as she hugged the school peers of her grandchildren Henry and Terry. Friends of Brenda Lin also showed their support, each carrying a white rose and placing them on her brother’s caskets at the end of the service.
Federal Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull also paid his respects to the Lin family. I saw him stop at each coffin, and knew I only had a few seconds to get my camera ready and capture his pity for the family. My image shows Mr Turnbull having a genuine moment of sorrow for the slain family.
Throughout the service, my thought process was deciding on how to get a single image that would illustrate the day without interpretation. In the last moments of the service I got the opportunity to get my camera high enough to photograph an aerial of the five caskets with my 14mm wide-angle lens. I mounted my Nikon D3 on a fully-extended mono-pod holding it above my head, four metres above the stage, capturing the caskets and the mourners in the pavilion.
That image, at the top of this post, was the last frame I took of the service which epitomises the shock and disbelief that these lives would be taken in such brutality.
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