Sag Harbor Photographs – The Old Burying Ground

Following my inspiration for a photography project timed for Halloween, I decided to move on from Southampton’s North End Graveyard to Sag Harbor’s Old Burying Ground.  The cemeteries are similar in some respects but there are significant differences. Both have burials that date from the first half of the 18th century along with many from the 19th century. Whereas the terrain is more or less level in North End, The Old Burying Ground is draped around a hill complete with twisted trees. If you always wanted to visit a cemetery that looks like an illustration from a children’s book about Halloween, this is the one.

Both cemeteries contain the remains of at least a dozen veterans of the American Revolution, which are noted by metallic plaques. Aside from the soldiers, The Old Burying Ground possesses a much wider diversity in terms of it’s occupants. There are a number of free African Americans buried here dating from the first half of the 1800’s, as well as Portuguese sailors from the days when this small village on eastern Long Island  was an international whaling port. There’s a tombstone for a young woman named Hamutal Horton who is described as the “amiable consort” of her sea captain husband. Over at the North End cemetery I stumbled upon a similar deceased bride, described as a “virtuous consort”. After a bit of research, I discovered that Puritans had a habit of chiseling such underhanded compliments onto the tombstones of their well-behaved wives.  Thank goodness we’ve moved on.

Another headstone recalls a freak accident which took place almost two hundred years ago. In 1814 there was a celebration in Sag Harbor marking the end of hostilities between the United States and Great Britain. During the festivities, two young men were accidentally killed when a canon inadvertently discharged. What an incredibly sad day that must have been in Sag Harbor.

By the way, if you’re visiting The Old Burying Ground, there’s a sign at the entrance that helps you figure out which stone goes with which person.

In terms of the pictures, my goal here was much the same, shooting at mid-day in order to amplify the effect of relief. Broad sunshine is required to accomplish this. It’s quite amazing to watch what happens as the sun moves over the tops of the stones. It gets even better if there’s plenty of lichens. Shooting at high noon in color is not usually my thing, but tombstones are a notable exception.


In both cemeteries I wanted to be close to the headstones for all the photographs, so much so that some of my images were set for macro. In this sort of photography, you’ll often find a spot where a collection of details says “this is it”.

Below is a link to the Southampton series:

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/southampton-photographs-walking-the-north-end-graveyard/

Here’s the rest of the images from The Old Burying Ground in a slideshow:

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6 thoughts on “Sag Harbor Photographs – The Old Burying Ground

  1. Just got here through your links, and thanks for that. I love cemeteries – sometimes when i travel I seek them out – the obscure ones usually. They are hard to photograph though, so I appreciate both your expertise and your sharing the (I suppose) obvious – that you need plenty of light to see those worn incised lines. Also, out west, I mess the really old gravestones – none of that here!

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