Frost’s words bookend those of a fellow poet, Rilke, that began this project with
the notion of “dying in full detail”—a phrase whose alluring possibilities I have
applied to digital documentary, describing a view of death it seems to offer. I
am likewise transposing the assertion in “Home Burial” to the context of repre-
sentation, as well, broadening its “friends” to consider the documentary cam-
era and the audiences that camera serves. Paired, these quotations form two
ends of a spectrum of answers to the question this book has ultimately consid-
ered: not about the extent to which it is right to record actual death but about
the extent to which it is useful. The access cameras in the digital age might
grant to “dying in full detail” offers to help us understand a shared human ex-
perience that is urgent and complex; but the persistent discourse on death as
The Nearest Cameras Can Go
. . . The nearest friends can go
With anyone to death, comes so far short
They may as well not try to go at all.
robert frost,
“Home Burial,” in Poems by Robert Frost
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