WEEKLY REFLECTION #25

GRAVE YARD HUNT DAY TRIP

As I have mentioned previously, my big plan to have a road trip around East Yorkshire Cemeteries was making me really excited.

It was my pleasure to set an alarm for 7 am and start my journey early. The sun was out and I was in a good mood. The phrase that you probably don’t hear much – I look forward to going to a grave yard. But I really was – it was important for me to explore that part of End of Life and see the British culture specific grave yard arrangements, grave stones and the nature of cemeteries.

The night before I prepared a list and planned the route starting from the furthest  – Withernsea.

  1. Withernsea (on the Way to Withernsea)
  2. Burton Pidsea
  3. South Cave
  4. Anlaby Cemetery
  5. St. Martin, Beverley
  6. Hull, North Cemetery
  7. Hull, Spring Bank

The first 4 was the important ones, the rest – if I get some time.

Grave Yard #1

[I haven’t been back to check the name of it]

I arrived early, the sun was just warming up the grounds and it was quite.
I was not quite sure how to start this weird thing of photographing strangers graves, so I kept my camera in the bag and just thought I have a wonder around. Also I was looking if the small cemetery church has got CCTV, just to be sure that I won’t get caught.

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I was surprised how beautiful everything is. It reminded me of the Eden gardens – peaceful and you could expect angels coming down from the blue sky.

I had a little wonder, took a few pictures of grave stones, flowers, teddy’s and items left aside the grave. It was like walking through many different life stories.
Some grave stones really amused me by what’s been left as a signifier for the person buried, some made me sad as I can see that there have been no visitors to the grave.

My attention was drawn to a man who appeared from the car park..oops, I thought I am in trouble. I slowly placed my camera in the bag and pretended to be “normal” visitor. Just to discover five minutes later, he has come to have his morning coffee and sandwich alongside someones grave – I can just guess if it is a wife, children or a friend, maybe parents. It was really sweet, but as he was there for a bit I felt the pressure to leave.

I took quite a few photographs around the grave yard from different points and angles and tried to spot something that is more extraordinary than a average grave.

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This grave stone and items alongside the grave just tell the story about the person leaving to wonder if he died from drink driving, or it was his passion – ride a motorbike and have a pint with his friends in the pub. And that picture – one the one hand – his family has picked a photograph that is probably not the most popular, but on the other hand – having this exact image gives the story more reality and truth about the person.

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At one point some work men/gardeners came and started to sort out the mole traps located around the grounds [yes, there is a “peeing in the bushes story”] and left this unattended for a while. I thought this image just shows that for someone this is a day job, walk all over graves and keep them company, also keep the place tidy, grass cut and litter-free.

From all, the image below is my favourite. It represents the visit, the project, the personal vision of grave yards and has a great composition, with little water drops in the grass

All Saints’ Church Roos Cemetery

This was an unplanned stop, as I was driving to the next destination. I thought it was an abandoned church and old grave yard.
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Through the mud and rotten leaves I found my way to this amazing place.

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Only further down I discovered that this is not derelict church and and grave yard. There was a “fresh” grounds full of graves.

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I was amazed by this hidden gem and thought to have a good look at the church.
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As I was composing this very picture, a man came up to me and told me a story about the church.
Church is still open and up and running.

I learned that Roos is the name of the village/place and the first recordings about the ground where the church is build is around 867 A.D.

This church first appears on writings in 1220 A.D.
The volunteer man invited me to have a look at the inside of the church and the organ they are restoring.

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It was really beautiful and I could smell the history.
The organ had its first opening in 1881 and it will soon be re-opened when the restoring is finished.

Here are the new pipes – hand painted.

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It was a lovely addition to my road trip and I had more images to reflect on.

Burton Pidsea

When looking the information about this cemetery I imagined it to be big, but at arrival I discovered that it is quite small. Large part of the grounds is old grave yards.
The church was beautiful and the sun just highlighted the detailed building.
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The grave yard that I was more focused on had a similar style of layout and I had a little wonder around just in case I find something photographically interesting and story-telling.

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This image is one of my favourites from all grave yards, I deliberately cropped the head off. The white figure represents the beauty of such sculptures against the grass, leaves and other elements.

South Cave Cemetery

South Cave is my favourite visit by far. I have seen the cemetery for a few times whilst driving past it and even before I took the project on, always wanted to stop and have a look. It has got certain appeal that probably can be explained by the overall landscape that promises peace and quiet.

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South Cave Cemetery has a certain mood that feels like it is filled with love and celebration of life. Yes, I think out of all cemeteries I’ve been to, this one really celebrates the “End Of Life”.

The decor, little touches and the little, cute church really filled my heart with joy.
My only problem at this visit was the man who was cutting grass on the grounds. So I had to hide my camera quite a lot.

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I was starting to get into the project and the road trip. There was a lot of stories to photograph within the grave yard.
I guess there could potentially be a larger scale project just photographing cemeteries up for grabs, as not many people are aware of the cultural trends of grave yards. That would not be first choice for visiting an exhibition of this kind, but could make people more comfortable when dealing with loss, death and grief.

At one point the man approached me and I had to make up a story that I am a history student and photograph old cemeteries.
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We had a little chat about the cemetery and his job. He said that he likes working here – here he can get his peace and quite from busy family life [wife] and just enjoy the silence.
her told me that people have to pay over £850 to get a place here, so we discussed the expenses of funeral and that saving up for your own funeral is just common sense these days.

He said that I need to come back when the cherry trees are blossoming. OHH, I have an official invite.

Few minutes later friend of his arrived and I had to leave.

I took last picture and came to a conclusion that grave stones are such an important legacy left behind, that my project will have a value at some point.

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When I was pulling out of the drive way, I noticed that both man are now sat on the side of an old grave and having a cigarette – I wish I’ve taken that picture.

Anlaby Cemetery

I was still buzzing and excited to continue my journey. Anlaby Cemetery looked very popular and well groomed. It was quite big with many different areas.

There was a few people about, so again – I was kind of sneaking and hiding my camera.

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Again – many different stories to be found and discovered. Green grass and fresh air gives that feel of freedom and peace. I imagine that people come here to clear up the old flowers and say “hello” to their loved ones, are looking forward to spend some time there.

As there was quite a few people about, I thought I test my comfort zone. I wanted to capture some interaction between the people and the graves.

It was scary to sneak behind the bush and point the camera in a shameless way, but I did not have the guts to go and ask, if I can take their picture next to the grave. There might be 1 out of 100 people that would say yes, but there was only sex people about…

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This is THE IMAGE of a man taking care of a loved ones grave.
I was feeling the guilt and sentiment, but when later on looking at the image, I discovered that it is his wife and the grave says: “will always be your pet lamb” and that nearly brought me to tears.
Yes, it is kind of wrong and ethically questionable, but we can all relate to this photograph and find the connection to the subject of the “End of Life”.
And that is the purpose of this project – get people talking openly about life, death and how we all celebrate the “End Of Life”. Because we all celebrate without even noticing it.

This cemetery also revealed something that I have read before in my research – about Kitsch and Death in one of the Gillo Dorfles essays.

“Even in the case of extremely famous examples of architecture, kitsch always manages to creep into furnishings and all sacred iconological material.” (Dorfles, 1969, p. 142)

Some of the grave yards scream “Kitsch”, because of the age group and the decade they lived in.

Again, I can’t really ignore the love for the Kitsch within this project, but I have to be careful not to offend anyone or be bias.

Just before leaving I had a conversation with a grave digger/gardener. We both agreed that it is expensive to die and people never stop paying for something – even after they die.

Also to a question about how he feels being surrounded by death, sadness and end of life on daily basis, he said – it is OK, life cycle is something that we are all aware of, but it gets really hard when a child dies and he has witness the funeral and mourners.

 

Definitely would like to come back here for more images, as the cemetery is big enough to sneak and be invisible.

Conclusion:

I am so pleased about the outcome. I am pleased about the discoveries, lessons learned and images. Could this be a big turning point in my project?


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