A few weeks ago my old Dodge Ram was in for another round of surgery in Southampton. I decided to kill some time (so to speak) by taking a stroll around the North End Graveyard.
The place was beguiling. I walked between the graves eating my lunch, noting familiar Southampton surnames on every other stone. Oddly enough, some of the carvings on headstones recalled Native American petroglyphs I’ve seen in the American southwest (not all that remarkable since all that was required in either case was a stone, a chisel and someone with a bit of inventiveness).
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. It requires no beliefs, celebrates imagination and encourages us to enjoy ourselves. What more do we need out of a holiday? Despite it’s lugubrious origins, it now takes itself far less seriously than its competition. While visiting the graveyard, the thought occurred to me to take a few photographs for Halloween this year.
I had my camera with me, but really needed a tripod. As a secondary problem, there was a guy mowing the grass. I had a hunch that taking pictures would be much more seductive if I had a few less distractions. I returned a week later hoping for some peace and quiet…(not much to ask of a graveyard).
There’s an interesting aspect to photographing tombstones. You might think that shooting at dusk would optimize the results. Admittedly, that can lead to evocative pictures, but shooting at noon on a sunny day is the best way to see them in relief. In the photograph to the left, Thomas Cooper’s headstone is seen in magnificent relief complete with it’s collection of lichens. Truthfully, the image would be impossible to take any other time of the day.
For many of these pictures I was nose to nose with the headstones. This called for lying on my stomach in order to focus the camera. If you can believe it, being this close to 250 year old tombstones for the better part of an afternoon was actually serious fun. I had no idea who all these people were and what their lives were all about, but when the names on the tombstones are all you have, your imagination gets to work.
A few days later I photographed the Old Burying Ground in Sag Harbor: