Photographing Cemeteries – Respect

 

 

One of the many lovely statues at Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington, NC. By kind permission of Oakdale Cemetery Management.

One of the many lovely statues at Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington, NC. By kind permission of Oakdale Cemetery Management.

 

Shooting in cemeteries is something I have enjoyed for years. This is my first blog entry to share tips and stories. My first tip is, show some respect. Many photographers think that the camera makes them welcome everywhere – not always so, especially in a cemetery.

 

Shot in Chestnut Hill Cemetery, Salisbury, NC on a misty, rainy day in January.

Shot in Chestnut Hill Cemetery, Salisbury, NC on a misty, rainy day in January, 2015

 

  • Be certain there are no funerals being conducted when you are there and if so, either leave and come back another time, or go to another area if it is a large cemetery.
  • A tripod might make you more obvious, especially a large one. And be sure the tripod feet don’t leave marks in the grass.
  • Be aware of people who have come to pay their respects and give them space. This is a place where people may come to grieve.
  • Be aware of others, especially if the cemetery is located inner-city, like New Orleans. The scariest thing that might happen is getting mugged!
  • Watch your step — I’ve fallen a couple of times! There may be rabbit holes or uneven ground, as well as small headstones you might trip over.
  • Try to avoid shooting names on monuments. I may even remove a very obvious name in editing. This shows respect for the families.
  • I always carry an empty bag to collect trash. As you leave, toss it in the trash can in the parking lot.
  • The grounds people are always great to talk to. You may get interesting stories, as well as tips for beautiful statues you might have missed.

Angel Of Unity, Cementerio Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis, San Juan, Puerto Rico Infrared Film Photograph; shot in 2011, final edit processed 2012 James C. Williams Photography © Copyright 2012 James C. Williams www.jamescwilliamsphoto.com

“Angel of Unity” – Cementerio  Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Cemeteries are for the living, more so than the dead. Treat others there as you would have them treat you and yours. Some cemeteries are private, which means you may not be able print or sell anything you shoot there. One near my home is private (signs read “NO TRESPASSING”), but I don’t think anyone has ever been prosecuted for photography there. A friend asked Salem Cemetery management about publishing a book about the history of Winston-Salem based on the cemetery, but was told that she would face a lawsuit if she did so. Municipal cemeteries are usually okay for photography, but night photography in any cemetery is another story. Look for that in a future blog posting. Thanks for reading and I hope you look forward to my future posts.

 

Tomb Light - Greyfriars

Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Scotland

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One Comment

  1. Joan VanOrman June 8, 2016 at 11:52 am #

    Hi Jimmy:

    Very nice post. Of course in your marketing plan – one tactic – is more consistent blog posts. This is true for all of us – and I do have just a few more posts in 2016 – still working on it. Look forward to completing the plan and seeing you implement. Will talk soon. Joan VanOrman

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