A curious nature, a camera and a cemetery. Sounds a little odd to say the least, possibly even downright creepy in the eyes of some people. I often wonder how I’m perceived by the random passerby when they see me framing up a shot of a gravestone, all on my lonesome. I guess the time of day may save me some form of ridicule or misconception; I imagine that late at night would certainly raise some concern and possibly even the odd call to the police. One thing it wouldn’t raise, would be the dead.
Maybe that’s why I feel at ease in such surroundings? I’m a great fan of horror and especially the zombie genre of movies, so you’d think the last place I’d want to be is in a cemetery, alone, with only a Canon camera to protect myself against the ghouls and fiends that my imagination may create. To be honest the Canon 5D mark IV is a hefty beast and I’m sure I could dispatch a whole horde of ravenous zombies before they finally take me down. But fantasy aside, I do find such places quite calming, if not peaceful and somewhat welcoming in a strange way.
Most large cemeteries I’ve walked through are like an open house, you’re welcome to walk around, stay as long as you like, within reason, and simply leave without any guilt of not buying your host a gift in someway to say thank you. Granted people bring flowers, but that’s for a more personal reason and not usually as a gift to the whole cemetery. What I like most about these places of rest are the often ornate and intricate gravestones, the designs and inscriptions have always fascinated me, even though in my own demise I’d prefer to be cremated.
Apart from the aesthetic variety of crypts, tombs and headstones, I love to read what’s written on many of them. It’s not always the sentiment, although I have great respect for that and the heartache that most must have felt to see their loved one returned to the earth, it’s more the dates and times. I have an odd attachment to history, I like to see things weather the ravages of time and still remain standing as a record of the past and what came before. I guess that’s why I’m so keen on photography, I like to record a moment, and hope that one day it will be used to look back on a point in time.
Seeing dates from times such as the 1800s often sparks my imagination, wondering what these people were like in that day and age, what they did, how they lived and eventually how they died. It’s not a morbid interest in death, more about the life they lead and how for many it was cut short due to the environment they worked or lived in. I have a desire to remind the world that they’re still here in some form, even though many have been forgotten over the years.
So, say hello to some of the people of Warstone Lane Cemetery, in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham. It has stood since 1847, and is one of two in that area, the other being Key Hill Cemetery a short walk away from Warstone. One of the main features that makes Warstone Lane standout, if you can have a standout ‘feature’ in a cemetery, is the semi-circular, two tiered catacombs. Although some of the cemetery is in need of a little maintenance, some of the surrounding greenery has created an eerie vision of the gravestones themselves being returned to the earth, as ivy and vines envelop the carved stone. Not only are there great opportunities for a well composed photo, but also opportunities to take in the history and slightly run down splendour that the cemetery must have had in its heyday.