Cemetery Photography from Big Paul

This post is originally from Big Paul, on his photography site which has gone offline. I had listed the link in the ODP (now Curlie) and I tried to find another source for the content, but other than a Flickr group, there was nothing else to be found. So I am reposting this post, about cemetery photography, from the original site, as an archive. I did not repost images, they were not loading and the text is what I really wanted to keep. The instructions and advice are good and time isn’t likely to change that.

I love a good cemetery. That probably sounds morbid, but it’s not. They’re peaceful places, for one thing; hardly anyone ever bothers you. Besides, I figure that since one of these days I’ll be going into one and not leaving, it’d probably help to start getting used to them now.

On a more serious note, cemeteries have a unique sense of history about them that not many other places do. You learn a lot about an area – the way its demographics changed over time, mortality rates, the people who settled and built an area – by who’s buried there. You also realize that for all the expense associated with the death industry (and it is that), we just don’t do mourning like we used to. Don’t believe me? Compare headstones from the 1800’s or even the early part of the last century with what you get now; we used to send our dead out in style, versus sending them out in the equivalent of a Happy Meal container.

• Bring bags with you. Most cemeteries are well-kept. Some, however, aren’t, or they’re located in areas where people tend to use them as shortcuts (or, worse still, dumping grounds). If you see trash, pick it up, and don’t ever leave trash of your own behind.
• I say the following as someone who smokes a pack a day: Don’t smoke in the cemetery. It’s just tacky.
• Likewise, if you’ve got an MP3 player, mobile phone, or anything else on you that makes noise, shut it off.
• Bear in mind that many cemeteries are private property. You may be asked to leave; if you are, do so, since you’re trespassing if you don’t.
• You may also be asked what you’re doing in the cemetery. If that’s the case, be honest and respectful.
• Speaking of respect, a little goes a long way. If you see a family nearby visiting a loved one, or if there’s a service going on, put the camera away. The photo’s not so important that you have to be an asshole to get it.
• Some cemeteries actually have photo policies. Some may explicitly state that you’re not allowed to take photos (rare, but it happens), while still others will allow picture taking as long as you don’t sell the photos, or may require a special arrangement if you want to sell what you’ve taken. It can also be helpful to call ahead to find out.
• Watch your step. For one thing, you don’t want to walk over someone’s floral arrangements, flags, and the like. For another, you may come across uneven ground, or even sunken graves, from time to time.
• Disturb as little as possible on or around a gravesite. It’s one thing if a stone or plaque has a layer of leaves and dirt on it; there’s nothing wrong with cleaning someone’s resting place.* If, on the other hand, the marker is partially obscured by flowers, toys, or anything else left there by loved ones, leave it as it is.**
• One last rule of thumb: if you’re not sure whether you feel right taking pictures in a graveyard, ask yourself one simple question: how would you feel if someone were taking a picture of your or your loved one’s tombstone? I’ve thought about this from time to time, and I think that as long as someone’s being respectful, I wouldn’t get bent out of shape about it. You may feel differently, and therein, I suppose, lies your answer.

If you want to learn more about cemeteries themselves, there are two great resources. The first would be a local church or historical society, who can tell you a lot about the town and its families (especially useful if you’re not familiar with an area). The other is a book that you can easily find online, called Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography which explains burial customs, iconography, and the significance of certain types of grave markers. It’s not a photography how-to, but it’s invaluable if you’re as interested in the history of a place and its dead as you are in the photos themselves.

*One exception would be stones, since it’s common custom to leave stones on or near the grave marker when you’ve visited. This is most common in Jewish cemeteries, but I’ve seen it done elsewhere as well.

**One site goes so far as to suggest moving anything that’s in the way of your photos and replacing it afterward, which strikes me as a step too far.

Photographing the Obsolete as it Happens

What could you find to photograph for history? Typewriters, wrist watches, maps on paper… so many things which have been made old fashioned, and obsolete. I miss the mechanical things like the old phones, watches and a compass. Inventions which were treasured while their time lasted.

The Obsolescence Project. 2013 – Ongoing.

Initially begun as a 30 day photographic blog project, it became a 365 day blog documenting things that are obsolete or about to be, about the nature of obsolescence and occasionally a modest and brief history of stuff.

Source: The Obsolescence Project – Photography by Deanne Achong

Postcard of a Demolished School

If you’re in Toronto you could find out the original address on Broadview and see what is built there now. If you aren’t in Toronto try Google Street View. Looks like it was replaced by a new school. It`s back in the trees on Street View so I`m not 100% sure.
etsy.com

The imposing and grand architecture of the Queen Alexandria School on Broadview Avenue in Toronto is now gone from the landscape yet it is captured here on this vintage postcard for future generations. I believe the school was built around 1905 and demolished in the mid 1950s.

via – Queen Alexandria School Broadview Avenue TORONTO by TheOldBarnDoor

Broadview Street School jpg

The real challenge would be to see what (if anything) is left of the white house to the right in this colour postcard I found online.

Ghost Preservation Worse Than Demolition?

This is not preserving history. It looks like a skin graft that didn’t take. A mask to be taken off when the party is over. I haven’t noticed anything like this before, but, I’m not living in Toronto these days.

Worse than demolition? I don’t know. I doubt something left like this will be maintained with the same effort as the newer building which really is part of the structure. How likely is the old facade to be left to crumble away when it really isn’t needed. Just an attempt at making peace with local historians.

This is why I love the photographs of the original places. It is sad that photographic technology hasn’t always had all the options for colour and detail which we have now. Yet, what will people a hundred years from now think of our obsolete images? Nothing can really be preserved, it can only be kept a little longer.

London is filled with grafted facades, nearly two-dimensional artifacts held in place while updated buildings are constructed behind them; many seem to haphazardly half-disguise the boring new stru…

Source: Saving Face: ‘Ghost Facade’ Preservation Worse Than Demolition? | Urbanist

Exploring Cemeteries for Photography and History

I like exploring cemeteries for the stonework. Everything else is nice but it’s really stone sculpture that I want to see. Weathering just adds to the allure.

Why should you consider exploring cemeteries with your camera? Here are a few reasons:

Beauty – Some landmark cemeteries are full of very elaborate and ornate sculptures, many of which can be considered works of art.

Character – Older gravestones and statues often have a weathered look that can only be produced by decades or centuries of exposure to the elements.

History – Cemeteries chronicle the history of cities and towns. Even a casual examination of gravestones can provide clues into customs, tastes, and norms of a given era. Reading some of the inscriptions can provide touching glimpses into people’s lives, how they lived, what they valued, and how they were thought of by others.

Atmosphere – Regardless of the season or weather conditions, cemetery scenes can evoke quite a bit of emotions on the part of the observers. A dark moody sky set against the end-of-day’s streaming sunshine can produce some vivid imagery.

Wildlife – Cemeteries in rural settings often border wooded areas. As such, it is not unusual for some to become veritable sanctuaries for wildlife.

Repose – In all but the most popular cemeteries, early morning and late afternoon hours will likely find you with little company. Getting some exercise while experimenting with some creative photography techniques in a serene setting can be quite peaceful and relaxing

Source: Photographing Cemeteries and Exploring Their Beauty

Rain Slicked Urban Photography

photos

From NetDost: PAINTERLY PHOTOGRAPHS OF RAINY DAYS BY EDWARD GORDEEV

Russian photographer Edward Gordeev takes beautiful photographs of city streets and people during rain that looks like painting. Most of the photographs have been taken at night with all the lighting on the streets…

Hard to believe these are photographs. I love a rainy day and rain, overcast days are great for taking photographs, especially for the abandoned and derelict places. The camera captures more light and shadow when there is less light but still enough light to see everything in sharp, crispy clarity. Rainy days are great for photographing ruins.

I found this post on NetDost and even though it isn’t exactly about urban exploration it is about photography and I sincerely love the photos and want to remember them. Not sure it’s the best technique for rural/ urban ruins when I want to see every detail, but they do have the sad and mysterious atmosphere just right.

At the end of the post a link was given as a source for the photographer, but I’m not sure it is a direct link versus a photo sharing site in Russia.