Tag Archives: cemetery photographs

Welcome to CemeteryTravel.com

Six or seven years ago, I had a brainstorm to create a video that would introduce CemeteryTravel readers to the cemetery where I grew up, the one that taught me to love graveyards. I quickly realized that I couldn’t film it by myself. Unfortunately, my kid wasn’t interested in serving as my camera person.

Another brainstorm later, I decided to ask my friend, collaborator, and former director Brian Thomas if he would shoot the video for me. When we were in college, I had the honor of appearing in some of Brian’s student films and I knew he has a gift with a camera. I asked him to shoot me gardening in front of my grandparents’ headstone and touching the Youell tree stump. He came up with all the other moving shots in this video.

We shot the footage in 2014 and there the project languished. Every so often I would open iMovie and take a stab at assembling the bits, but my lack of editing skill made the work highly frustrating and very depressing. The gulf between what I wanted and what I could manage was crushing.

It took another brainstorm to finally get the job done. Earlier this year, I approached my friend John Palisano, who had published the first edition of Wish You Were Here and created an amazing book trailer for me. I asked John if he would edit the raw footage together for me.

After John said yes, his son Leo got interested in the project and put together this lovely video. Leo edited the footage together, added some of my photos where pieces were missing — and then animated them, and put up with my niggling comments of shortening this piece or that. He chose the stone-grain typeface for the title cards. He added the blue jays from Brian’s original videos as intro and outro sound. He made the the video of my dreams at last.

I was literally incapable of making this video without their help. Thank you so much, Brian, John, and Leo!

Vacation on the Amazon River

My dear friend Jeff is on a mission to travel to all the ends of the earth. Ten years ago, he fulfilled a lifelong dream and took a cruise down the Amazon.  He sent me these photos from the cemetery along the way.  With his permission, I share them with you.

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From Jeff’s note:

First, a context photo, since I do not know much about this graveyard.
We stopped here to go for a swim on a sandbar on an island in the middle of the Rio Negro (the branch of the Amazon we were on).  The water was warm and we just spent a few hours standing up to our necks in the water that was cooler than the air.  If you look, you can see that people are drinking beer while they stand, with our residence floating in the background.
This graveyard is at the high point of this sand bar.  On wet winters, I suspect that this graveyard would be under 1 meter of water. Typically, it seems to be right at the high water mark of the river.  When we got there, the crosses had all been freshly repainted.  The roller was still sitting there with paint on it.  Talk about a graveyard with a view!

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Loren again:  Someday we’ll be able to travel again. In the meantime, you can check out Jeff’s other exotic adventures on Cemetery Travel:

You can see Jeff’s photos of his trip to Cuba here.

See his photos of the graveyards of Croatia and Bosnia here.

His pictures of Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh are here.

The Cemetery Traveler

The Cemetery Traveler: Selections from the blog by Ed SnyderThe Cemetery Traveler: Selections from the blog by Ed Snyder by Ed Snyder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ed Snyder was blogging about visiting cemeteries before the idea even occurred to me. In fact, I wrote to ask his permission to call my blog Cemetery Travel. He was kind enough to say yes, because getting people to visit cemeteries is important to him.

All of Ed’s quirky personality comes through in this fun little book: his sense of humor, his love of life, his meticulous photographer’s eye, his passion for protecting and restoring cemeteries. He’s a storyteller, not a writer, so the text is straightforward and occasionally less polished than it might be, but it’s easy to get caught up in his wonder at the wildlife inhabiting a cemetery or his anger at how a cemetery has been treated. Just as soon as you think you’ve gotten Ed figured out, he’s gently brushing off the invitation of a prostitute outside the cemetery gates or dodging a pack of feral pitbulls in Mount Moriah or stopping by the grave of Nancy Spungen to tell the sad tale of Sid Vicious’s illegal burial there. He sounds like he would be a great person to poke around a cemetery with.

I was amused to see Ed’s experience visiting the grave of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Florence was so similar to my own. Both of us arrived when the English Cemetery was closed. Both of us met Julia Bolton Holloway, the cemetery’s caretaker, who welcomed us into the graveyard, let us photograph to our hearts’ desire, and showed us her little museum. I was glad to see that nothing had changed between my visit in 1999 and his in 2010.

I’m envious that Ed got to hang out in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill while a zombie movie was being filmed. I wish he’d been able to go out on the boat that scatters ashes in Long Beach, but the interview he did with the boat’s captain is fascinating. I’m glad that he researched the destruction of Philadelphia’s Monument Cemetery, which was demolished to build a parking lot — and essay that is worth the price of the book.

The only reason I took one star off the book is that I wish it had more of Ed’s beautiful black and white photos. I’m going to have to buy a copy of his Stone Angels book, too.

All in all, I’m grateful that Ed pulled together his favorite blog pieces to create this book. I hope it will bring more attention to The Cemetery Traveler and his work bringing Mount Moriah Cemetery back from the edge of dissolution.

I had the luck to publish one of the essays from the book on Cemetery Travel.  You can read “The Allure of the Abandoned Cemetery” here: https://cemeterytravel.com/2015/11/20/deaths-garden-the-allure-of-the-abandoned-cemetery/

You can buy your own copy of the book in paperback on Amazon: https://amzn.to/34tPVS3

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

The lovely photography of Nasser K

I just discovered another photographer making art from cemeteries. He introduced himself with the email below and intrigued me enough to follow his link.  I hope you will feel the same way.

From Nasser:

I would like to share with you a new body of work called Life and Then – A Photographic Exploration of Cemeteries.  I have been photographing cemeteries for some time now. I understand that not everyone is comfortable with the subject I have chosen, as I was not when I began the project about nine years ago. Over time, I started enjoying my visits to the cemeteries.  It was interesting to learn how each culture, religion, or geographic areas treat their dead. These visits have put life in perspective for me. It was comforting to know with all the inequities in life, we all will die at the end. During my visits, I do not seek the graveyards of rich and famous; it was the ordinary people, and the stories that I imagined of them interested me the most. Art and life at cemeteries also made my photographic exploration more enjoyable.

At this junction in my never-ending cemetery project, I felt that it is time to share a selection of my images. The collection that I have chosen for my Life and Then portfolio centered on landscape and art at cemeteries. I hope you enjoy these photographs as much as I enjoyed being there to capture them.

https://www.nasserk.com/Portfolio/Life-and-Then

Secure the Shadow

Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in AmericaSecure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America by Jay Ruby

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has been on my TBR shelf for a very long time In fact, it’s been there so long that it’s gone out of date. When Secure the Shadow was published in 1995, no one carried internet-connected cameras in their pockets. The ability to photograph a deceased loved one — without the intercession of a photographer, funeral director, or photo processing — along with the ability to upload those photos and share them across social media has changed the game. I saw someone sharing photos of her father’s funeral on Facebook just yesterday. (For the record, they were tasteful and beautiful.)

Ruby tries to refute the notion that postmortem photos were rare when photography was new. To support that, he resorts to photographers’ records of the number of times they traveled to take such photos in family homes. Not many of those photographs have survived to come down to us now, probably because intervening generations found them in “bad taste” and disposed of them.

One of the chapters talks about photo plaques on cemetery monuments, including the rare instances of postmortem photos on gravestones. It doesn’t couch those images in the larger context of statues of dead people on their own graves, whether “sleeping” babes or women holding their dead infants while they lay on their deathbeds. That subject remains to be explored.

The part of the book that fascinated me most was the final chapter, which examined the resurgence of artful photos taken of stillborn or infants who die shortly after birth. Many of the psychological justifications for taking those photos — whether the families want them at the time or not — could apply to any postmortem photos. I think there is a market to be explored.

Overall, I found the text of the book repetitive, either because each chapter was designed to stand alone or because the author didn’t read his book from beginning to end as I did. The information is interesting, but the books from the Thanatos Archives have better illustrations.

I sometimes find copies of the book in secondhand bookstores with photography sections (although it is heavier on text than photographs).  Amazon has some for sale, but they are pricey: https://amzn.to/2ThSZef.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.