These days you hear a lot about how it’s inappropriate to shoot photos in a cemetery, as a goth that’s been a part of our “lifestyle” for as long as it’s existed. I definitely understand why folks wouldn’t feel comfortable taking pictures in a graveyard, but I am of the opinion that if you are respectful, do not damage the tombstones or the landscape, and avoid mourners that it’s fine. Cemeteries often double as parks in cities here, using them for exercise or respectful photography keeps them maintained and allows you to explore the history on display there. The cemetery I shoot in is one of the oldest in my city, it also has stones from the Victorian era that are beautiful examples of the traditions of that time.
The Victorians celebrated death in ways we don’t today, from their truly elaborate cemeteries to creating a myriad of symbols used on tombstones to describe the deceased. Before parks and recreation areas were common people used cemeteries to picnic in, they were considered leisure areas. With childhood deaths and incurable illnesses so common many folks found comfort in visiting their deceased loved ones and picnicking with them as though they were present. The manicured landscape and elaborate tombstones were a beautiful backdrop to a social afternoon. It was less the silent, mournful experience we now associate with graveyards. The Victorians transformed cemeteries into lush parks where their dedication to mourning and preparing for death were celebrated by the living (as seen in the photo below).
It’s important to be respectful of the space and the historical monuments therein, never climb on stones or do sexualized photos on top of graves, and try to keep identifying inscriptions out of the photos if at all possible. Avoid anyone there mourning or active internment ceremonies. Help out by collecting any trash you find in the park (I try to do this every time I walk in this cemetery).
Azura Rose and I had a lovely walk through my favorite cemetery and I showed her a bunch of my most favorite tombstones and spots for sketching that I use there.
Please know you are allowed to have a different opinion about shooting in a graveyard than I have, but please also examine your intentions when projecting that opinion onto strangers online. It can be satisfying to “call someone out” who makes choices you don’t agree with online but no one is harmed by my making respectful art in a graveyard, and in a world full of actual injustice I promise your energy is better spent in a million other places.
See the entire photo series here!
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