What Photographers Can Learn from the Death of Whitney Houston

Flower1963, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

It’s all over the news and, tonight anyway, it will soon too be all over the Grammy Awards: the death of Whitney Houston. To a lot of people from my generation, Whitney Houston was *the voice.* She was the singer who could really sing. She was the pop icon, the “big” star, yes, but she had the pipes to prove it. She was the type of singer that, when your mother told you, “they don’t make singers like they did in my day!” you could quietly point to in response. There’s no doubt about it, Whitney could sing.

Of course, we all know now too that she was troubled too. She had a problem with drugs and booze and men and she liked to party too much while resting too infrequently. She didn’t know when to stop. She was an addict. Tonight, there will be many people celebrating her life, her legacy (as well they should-she left the world with some beautiful songs) and many people too commenting on her drug use and her fall from grace.

I thought about posting my usual “RIP Whitney Houston” entry today, but instead decided to use this as an opportunity to say a bit more about her celebrity and her death because I feel that there are a few things we can all do to remember her legacy in a kind and positive way.

For starters, and this may seem pretty obvious but I’m going to come right out and say it. Don’t take drugs. The easiest way to quit using drugs is to never take them in the first place. If you are on drugs, get help. I know that sounds very easy to say, and it’s almost simplistic (too simplistic really) but, if we all (and I mean all) started to collectively look at problems with alcohol and addiction in different light, it we start supporting people and helping them actual get off the crap, rather than passing judgement, the world would be filled with fewer addicts. So tonight, in my own simplistic way, I’m going to start out by saying that. If you are on drugs, get help, get off of them. If you know somebody who is on drugs, encourage them to get off them and please encourage them to seek help. It’s a simple thing really, but it makes a difference. Drugs robbed us of a wonderful voice when they took Whitney away. How many voices, how many visions, how many great artists do we have to say goodbye to before we start to change the way we look at the problem?

Next up is the “celebrity” aspect of her death. I know, in fact we all know, there is going to be “deathbed gossip” about how she died, where she died, who she was with, what she was taking, etc. And the media hounds, the tabloids, the paparazzi, in the infinite “wisdom” (ahem, read: thirst for publicity and audience) are going to publish her deathbed images. They’ll show police pictures of her slumped over in a bathtub or, even worse, strung out on the floor with pills and pill bottles all around her body. There will be shots of ambulances, stretchers, doctors attending to her maybe, perhaps even her daughter being treated in the hospital. I know this is simple too, and maybe you can’t help yourself, but I’d beg of you: don’t look. If papers are selling “glamorized” images of her death, don’t buy them. Don’t purchase what they are trying to sell you. Please allow Whitney and her family the decency of a private death. Before you slip off and say, “but everybody else is doing it!” or “but I really want to look!” I’d have to ask, “really? Do you really need to see pictures of a singing sensation slumped over in a bathtub? Don’t you know what empty pill bottles look like and can’t you move on with your life and focus instead on something positive?”

Isn’t the world a better place that that? There are happy puppies and kittens you can surf on the web. Heck, there’s even porn. Go look at some supermodels bare breasts, it will do the world more good in the long run. Don’t we have enough death and destruction as it is? We really don’t need to see images of Whitney Houston’s death anymore than we need to see photos of children starving in Africa and, let’s face it, we can actually do something about the starving children. So, I’d beg of you too, don’t glamorize her death, just don’t buy into the hype.

Whitney Houston was a great singer and had a great voice. Now with her passing, isn’t it time we celebrate her life and her artistic accomplishments? Listen to her music, yes. Hopefully, we can all find something positive to take away from that and we won’t need to drag out her death in tabloids and nasty images from stalking paparazzi. Photography is better than that, please don’t buy into that sort of hype. It’s not going to help you remember Whitney and it’s only giving the world more crap. It’s just spreading around the suffering and there’s really no reason to do that.

As an artist, I’m going to do my best to remember Whitney in a positive light. I’m going to try to do my part to help get people off drugs and alcohol. I’m going to try to be more tolerant of people suffering from and (working hard) overcoming addiction. I’m not going to judge people by the battles they’ve had with these demons in the past (we all make mistakes and we are all, at the end of the day, only human too.) I’m going to avoid the tabloid circus that will, no doubt, unfold right before my very eyes. Instead, I’m going to quietly slip into the happy cocoon of my headphones and fondly enjoy some of the wonderful music Whitney Houston left behind when she left us too soon. I’m going to remember and celebrate the best she had to offer because, when I pass, I hope somebody will do the same for me. It what all artists hope for, so why deny Whitney that? If you called yourself a “fan” of hers when she was alive, isn’t this the least you can do now that she’s passed? If everybody got together and did the same thing, wouldn’t the world be much better off for it?

R-I-P Whitney Houston. Your golden voice will be missed.

Until next time…



  1. Great Grandma Lin
    February 13, 2012 / 2:46 am

    I agree, there is too much addiction and attempts to escape going on in show business and in your high schools and communities…

  2. Carol
    February 22, 2012 / 6:04 am

    Addiction seems to be such a problem for the young singers today. I don't know what it is but they all seem to have a lot of problems with it.

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