Cemetary pictures?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Robert, Sep 18, 2002.

  1. Robert

    Robert Member

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    Does anybody feel goulish taking pictures in a graveyard? Some of the local ones have great stone statues. They seem to reach out and beg to be photographed. I always feel a little wierd doing it but then I get passed by a jogger.
     
  2. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    You I actuallu think the work is derivative, seen many of this.....but of course that did not stop me from taking them.. [​IMG]

    After I developed and printed the pics, it sort of depressed me a little, decided I should celebrate beauty not death...so I stopped.
     
  3. BobF

    BobF Member

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    I hit some of the old cemetaries in the abandonded ghost towns and I never thought much about it. But since you mentioned it I realized that the fairly new sections I seem to stay away from as it just doesn't feel right. I guess when you see evidence that someone is still visiting and caring for the site then it changes things a bit.

    The ones I do like are often overgrown with 20 year old aspens and other growth with stones, statues and fences trying to show thru.
     
  4. Robert

    Robert Member

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    The monuments I photographed yesterday ranged from 80 to 125 years I guess. OTOH the way the cemetary has been setup you can see new current sections less then 100 feet away. It sort of bothers me but between dodging joggers and cyclists I guess it's okay. Nice thing is with all the mature trees the light seems the same from sunup to sunset.

    One sad thing is the WWI memorial. I doubt anybody even knows it's there.
     
  5. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    My rule of thumb is this -

    Take only historical pictures.

    Which usually means old graves around 100 years old or older. My logic being that by that time any living relatives have pretty much never known the deceased, and they are in the "ancestors" category. Keep in mind this ONLY works in U.S. and Western European nations like ENgland and France. I know that some other countries feel differently about their ancestors. But once someone is an "ancestor" nobody usually minds taking pictures of the grave. Some people actually find PRIDE in it.

    I also make sure I am very quiet, very careful and very discreet. The only time I ever got a weird look was in England where I was shooting 400 year old graves in front of a church. The wedding PHOTOGRAPHER was worried I was there to shoot the WEDDING.
     
  6. Domenico Foschi

    Domenico Foschi Member

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    Hi Robert, i have shot for two years in cemeteries, and aside for the guardians who sometimes don't want you there, i have found it a great experience.
    No, it isn't a morbid statement.
    It is actually a great place to relax and to put things in a different perspective.
    Yes , it has been done over and over again, but you know very well that if you take the same subject and 1000 photographers you will have 1000 diferent visions.
    Go ahead and have fun.......if you can ...
     
  7. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I have to agree with the majority of the posts on the matter of cemetary photography. I also photograph in them from time to time. I think that photography, if nothing else, is a recording of our life and time. It can also depict the matter of life and death (those are factual realities). I have seen some interesting and moving images shot by others on that subject. I even believe that Ansel Adams had at least one cemetary image that has been published. (for whatever that is worth).
     
  8. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    I have a cemetary shot done in infrared. The foreground has a sign that says "No Dumping" and in the background are a field of graves. The no dumping sign was actually meant for the end of the street but I thought it was ironic the way it appeared sitting in front of the graves.
     
  9. Mark in SD

    Mark in SD Member

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    I find cemetaries to be nice places to make strong photographs. There are a wealth of different pictures you can make there.

    1. Reverent and Respectful. The Boy Scouts put flags on the graves at a local National Cemetary every year and I have taken some nice pictures of both the procedure and the result.

    2. Peaceful. I have seen several pictures that seem peaceful and, perhaps, a bit sad.

    3. Profound. I remember one very strong B&W photograph that I saw some years ago of a cemetary in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It was very powerful.

    4. Sad. Of course, there are several levels of sad that can be captured here, not all involving people in the frame.

    No, I don't feel bad if I'm there to take serious pictures. So long as you treat the area with the proper respect and don't disturb anybody in their private reflections, a cemetary can make for good photographs.
     
  10. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  11. Nige

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    I'll add a pic which you can comment on [​IMG]
     
  12. cophotonut

    cophotonut Member

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    There was a cemetary in London that wanted to charge fo me to bring a camera to it. It was 10 pounds I think. I forget the name as we happened upon it, but that is insane.
     
  13. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    When ever visiting a new location I always try to spend time at the local cemetary. The older the better. Modern times (expense ?) have seem to done away with beautiful art forms that were very common place years ago.
    My sense is the beauty and peacefulness is very powerful. I do agree it is important to be very respectful of the grounds and the manner in which the work is produced.
    I always encourage my students to work in these locations as it gives one time, quiet, and a good place to practice technique without strangers asking questions about these "Old" cameras (4 X 5).
    As a added adventure, reading headstone can be very educational, humurous, and thought provoking.
    Perhaps like all things, intend is the measure of results.
     
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  15. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    I actually found an old cemetary last weekend that I plan to shoot. As far as I can tell it is the old cemetary for the town of Silverbell, AZ which was abandoned and buried under the tailings of the Silverbell Mine. Driving along a dirt road into the northern section of Ironwood National Monument, I came across this little cemetary on the side of the road. It is set back a ways and sort of ambles along a little ridge. There are probably 20-40 graves there of varying ages. Some at least 100+ years old. None have legible labels. Very much a "boothill" kind of place.

    Oh, and for strange gravestones....

    When I lived in the Seattle area, there was an old miners cemetary in the Coal Creek area near Renton. Now apparently there had been a family in the area named Monster. Yes, Monster. There is a Monster Road in Renton. Anyway, in this cemetary was a tombstone with the name - "Baby Monster".
     
  16. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Somewhat off the topic but in the midwest (as well as other semi rural locations)
    you will find the roadside memorials for victims of car accidents. Usually they are for young adults and children made of homemade crosses embellished with flowers and balloons, pictures of the deceased and cards and letters from friends. one especialy moving one had a cross with a small garden type picket fence around it and the ground covered by various stuffed animals and toys.

    For the city and state they are a nuisance becuase they are on highway and street right of ways, but for friends and family they serve as poignant reminders of a loved ones life cut short.

    I have been photographing these memorials in and around Omaha in various conditions from new and well kept to decaying and nearly vanished. I don't yet fully understand why I am attracted to photograph them but I do feel a need to document these impermanent memorials.



    I think one reason that interested me is the varying conditions of thse spots. When I see a memorial that had been kept up with new flowers or a new picture and then a few months later is overgrown with weeds and slowly disappearing, I wonder if the family has gotten beyond the tradgedy, or maybe the grief has become overwhelming? Maybe they just simply moved away. I hope mystery is also somehow conveyed in the final image.
     
  17. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  18. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    Jim - I know what you mean. I myself have wanted to do a project where I take a section of highway and shoot every single one of those memorials. Sort of a snapshot of that area.

    Living in the Southwest, those memorials are VERY common. I have seen them in other states, and they are not just a hispanic or catholic phenomenon, but they seem to have origonated as such. In fact there are a couple of spanish words for them, although I can not remember them right now.

    In Tucson, we have one that is very old. In the late 19th century (IIRC), a woman had an affair with local man whom she met at the railroad tracks. The enraged husband killed him and placed him on the tracks so his body was scattered along them for miles.

    Locals at some point turned an old adobe wall with a hearth in it into a shrine for the man and his lover, whom legend says can still be seen wandering the tracks looking for him. To this day people leave prayers in small niches cut into the adobe wall and light candles there.
     
  19. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    It came to mind after my previous post in this thread that the cemetary I was referring to has a Victorian Sunday Picinic in the Park every year. Folks wear clothes of that period, bring picinic basket and blankets and sit on the common ground at the premise. There is a Teddy Bear Tea Pary for children, including a professional story teller, music, folk dancing, and even a photo contest for photos taken at that location. It is a wonderful afternoon and people have a wonderful time. There is such a thing as a celebration for live but perhaps that is my Irish background.
     
  20. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    In Edinburgh Scotland, 60 miles from where I live there is a cemetary that is about 150 years old with some quite beautiful headstones embedded into walls. When wet during the frequent rainstorms in this part of the world, they are positively screaming to be photographed. I have often gone there to make photographs in the rain but have done so only once because I feel as though I am intruding in a place of memories and privacy and feel guilty. I am not a particularly religous person so it is not on those grounds that I don't make photographs but I do feel that when selecting locations photographers should show care and respect. In reading through this thread it seems to me that many of you make good photographs in cemetaries. Given my block, how would you deal with the moral grounds of my dilema.
     
  21. clogz

    clogz Subscriber

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    When visiting a War Cemetary in Nijmegen, Holland some years ago I got talking with some WWII veterans and I asked what they thought of my intention to take pictures there. They had no objections whatsoever.
     
  22. Robert

    Robert Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Les McLean @ Jan 19 2003, 05:56 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> Given my block, how would you deal with the moral grounds of my dilema. </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    I share your feelings. What I did was go early morning during midweek. It was basically me and the grounds crew. Still felt kind of wierd. The monuments are really starting to soften from the acid rain. I figure in the not too distant future those made out of stone that reacts to acid rain [limestone?] will literally wash away.

    Actually it wasn't just me and the grounds crew. Almost got run over by a jogger.
     
  23. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    A headstone has one function; they are erected "In Memorial" - to perpetuate the memory of ....

    That we bring the memorial to someone's attention through a photograph is simply an extension of its function.

    These are our histories of those who have preceded us. They certainly do invoke images of "The way it was" ... and one cannot help but wonder at the people there and their lives.

    In visiting, I am always reminded that we are finite beings; that we have little time to waste, and therefore, we should use it well.
     
  24. Les McLean

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    Ed,

    I've never though of a headstone in the way that you describe. You've certainly given me mush to think about. Thanks for the contribution.
     
  25. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  26. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    to response to Les and the moral dilema. I have been thinking about this for several days now, and feel it has to due with intent and one's internal moral compass. To be in these places and maintain regard and respect for the subject matter as well as surroundings makes a differences (at least IMHO). I would like to make a beautiful print that would make folks think of peace and serenity. To use it as a poster for a dart board would be unthinkable (at least from my point of view).So purhapes the final outcome intended would make a difference as to whether one feels comfortable making images in this environment.
    As to another thought; people have spent alot of money and engery on artistic forms to represent their pasting and it is hard to image they had no intention of anyone sharing and seeing these indevors.