Solemn Treasures

I’ve written before about how much I enjoy taking pictures in cemeteries.  But it’s not just the serenity or beautiful lines that I love.  I also like seeing the unusual ways that people choose to honor their dead.

Budapest - Skeleton TombstoneSome people enjoy using unique headstones to mark their loved one’s final resting place.  Like this headstone I found in the New Public Cemetery in Budapest.  I’ve always loved statuary and the light play that can happen with them, so to see this enormous display of a skeleton standing over the deceased  playing a violin, while the woman grieves was a great find for me.  There’s something so sadly entrancing about it, especially after I converted the photo into black and white.

Portland - ScrabbleAnother, more uplifting tombstone was found in a cemetery in Portland.  This one shows all the wonderful things to know about the dearly departed, and it was all done in a very clever manner, using Scrabble, which I assume was Paul’s favorite game.  Normally, I alter any photo I take of graves so that you can’t see the person’s name (I do that out of respect for the dead and their relatives), but this one was so unique and celebratory, that I felt it would be disrespectful not to include his name.

But it’s not just the headstones that I like to take pictures of.  There are so many special things that people put on graves as tokens of their love.  There’s usually flowers of some sort (live or fake), but I’ve also seen hand-made ceramic dolls sitting on the marker, and I think I even once saw a Sesame Street stuffed animal at one place.  It’s these things–things that you wouldn’t normally think “belonged” in a cemetery–that I find interesting and want to capture them with my camera.

Sydney - Huge ShellIn Sydney’s Waverly Cemetery, the ocean is such a beautiful backdrop to the many statues and crypts that are there, but I also found a bit of the ocean inside the cemetery.  One person used this giant shell as an adornment to a grave site.  You can see a bit of wear and tear on the folds of the shell (and I can’t remember if this was an actual shell, or if it was man-made), but it’s such a beautiful piece and accents the nearby sea so well.

New Zealand - GlassStill on that side of the world (but in New Zealand this time), Craig and I found a small cemetery at the side of a road we were driving along.  It took us all of 20 minutes to walk around the entire cemetery (I normally spend a minimum of 3 hours walking through a “regular sized” cemetery), but there were still some interesting things to be found.  Like these hurricane candle holders and the little blue glass beads.  Yes, many people put candles at a grave site, but in a sea of grey and white headstones, the lovely blues and greens of the glass stood out quite nicely.

So the next time you visit a cemetery (and I encourage you to do so), keep your eyes peeled for interesting tokens of affection.  Maybe spend some time reflecting upon why the mourner(s) chose that particular tchotchke to honor the dead.


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