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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
It’s time to clear out some of my extra cemetery books. There will be more, but for now, here’s the list of what I have for sale. Let me know (either in the comments below or through the Contact Me form above) if you are interested in any of these and give me your mailing address, so I can check the postage for you. PRICES DO NOT INCLUDE POSTAGE.
I take paypal.
The Green-Wood Cemetery Walk #1: Battle Hill and Back Walk #2: Valley & Sylvan Waters
by Jeffrey I. Richman
Published by The Green-Wood Cemetery, 2001. Spiral bound. Two walking tours of this lovely garden cemetery. I bought the books from the cemetery, but they’ve never been used.
$20 for both.
Guide to Abney Park Cemetery
by Paul Joyce
Essay, listing of interesting graves, some b/w photographs of one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries.
Rare, out-of-print. In good shape.
Second edition from 1994.
by Enric Miralles and Carme Pinos
Very rare architectural study of a new modern cemetery in Barcelona. These start at $100 on Amazon.
The edges have discolored very slightly over time. Published in 1996.
Tomb Sculpture: Its Changing Aspects from Ancient Egypt to Bernini
by Erwin Panofsy
Henry N. Abrams, 1970. Paperback reading copy with some shelfwear. This collects 4 lectures given by a scholar who was considered the “greatest interpreter of the meaning of art.” It contains 471 crisp black & white photos of tomb sculpture. A really lovely book, but showing its age.
R.I.P. Memorial Wall Art
by Martha Cooper and Joseph Sciorra
1994, Henry Holt. Paperback with some slight edgewear, but still very tightly bound. This is a study of memorial murals painted when someone in the neighborhood died, often by violence. The photos are full color throughout. If you’re interested in urban memorialization or graffiti, this is for you.
Milltown Cemetery: A Brief History
by Raymond J. Quinn and Joe Baker
Undated 1st edition signed by Joe Baker. An oversized saddlestitched paperback focuses on a Nationalist cemetery in Belfast, examining the history of the Troubles as recorded in the gravestones and news stories of the day. This is not available on Amazon.
Two Acres of Irish History: A Study through Time of Friar’s Bush and Belfast 1570-1918
by Eamon Phoenix
2001, Ulster Historical Foundation. An oversized saddlestitched paperback focuses on Friar’s Bush, the oldest Christian site in Belfast, with ties to St. Patrick. The cemetery contains a cholera pit and memorials to historic citizens of Belfast. It contains a map, walking tour, and some b/w photos.
Here Rests in Honored Glory: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery
By R. Conrad Stein
Weekly Reader Books, 1979. Hardcover, in great shape. A kids’ book on the cemetery’s history. Great for introducing a kid to the appeal of cemeteries.
by Robert Blair
Spiral bound, letterpress printed by Cary G. Birdwell.
Just an unillustrated copy of this lovely, morbid poem. The poem was first published in 1747.
Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death
by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen
Collins, 2006. Mary Roach says this is “A must-read for anyone who plans on dying.” No photos, but the text is inclusive. Trade paperback reading copy with dog-eared pages.
The story behind “The Mystery of Life” plus a Pictorial Map and Guide to the Famous Art Treasures of Forest Lawn and another Forest Lawn brochure
Saddlestitched. Discoloration on cover from a price sticker.
Rare advertising booklet from the original Forest Lawn about one of their over-the-top fountain sculptures.
Tombstone Tourist: Musicians
by Scott Stanton
First edition from 1998. This is a very comprehensive encyclopedia of musicians’ graves around the world, with a particular focus on the graves of bluesmen. Autographed but cover is not in great shape. Tightly bound. One dog-eared page.
I ALSO HAVE NEW COPIES OF:
Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel
by Loren Rhoads Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel contains 35 graveyard travel essays, which visit more than 50 cemeteries, churchyards, and gravesites across the globe. More info here.
2nd edition. New trade paperback.
Cemetery Travels Notebook
by Loren Rhoads The Cemetery Travels Notebook is the place to keep field notes from your own cemetery adventures. It features 80 lined pages, interspersed with 20 lush full-page color photographs of cemeteries from Paris to Tokyo, with stops at Sleepy Hollow, San Francisco, and all points between, to inspire your wanderlust.
New trade paperback.
Sacred: New Orleans Funerary Grounds
by Elizabeth Huston
Photomoinium Press, first edition paperback. Lovely black & white — and some colorized — photos document the cemeteries of New Orleans before Katrina struck. A nice companion with Consecrated Ground.
The Victorian Celebration of Death
by James Stevens Curl
First edition, hardcover. Sutton, 2000. This book covers everything from cemeteries to mourning jewelry, exploring the history and the philosophical change in the way the dead were regarded in Victorian England. Full of pretty black and white images, from photos to etchings.
The Mexican Day of the Dead
by Chloe Sayer
Shambala, 1990. Small paperback. Some dog-ears. Lots of color and b/w photographs. This book helped bring Dia de los Muertos in an English-reading audience.
The Last Laugh: A Completely New Collection of Funny Old Epitaphs
by Gail Peterson
Published by Hallmark Editions.
Small hardcover with dust jacket. Jacket has small rips. A collection of very silly epitaphs, perfect for a gift for just the right person.
Consecrated Ground: Funerary Art of New Orleans
by Lisa L. Cook
Pixieco Press, 1998. This HUGE (15” x 12”) beautiful hardcover collection is absolutely stuffed with black and white photographs. It’s signed by the photographer. This will cost extra to mail.
Graven Images: New England Stonecarving and its Symbols 1650-1815
by Allan I. Ludwig
1966, Wesleyan University Press. First edition, paperback. Still tightly bound, but the bottom edge has foxed and there’s some slight shelfwear. This is the masterwork that expanded the study of stonecarving in New England. It is packed full of black & white photos of skulls, skeletons, and deaths heads.
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