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Requiem

Abandoned gatekeeper’s office and house in Oakwood Cemetery, 940 Comstock Avenue, next to Syracuse University, in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York. There is very little information online about this building, however, I’ve read it was designed by H. Q. French and Co. and built circa 1927.

Oakwood Cemetery was designed by landscape architect Howard Daniels and opened in 1859. It is a secular Victorian “rural” or “garden” style cemetery where over 60,000 people are interred in 160 wooded acres.

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Burden in Your Hand

Unknown family plot in Fairbank Cemetery off the San Pedro Trail, Fairbank, Cochise County, Arizona. The old graveyard is located about a half mile up a trail and is heavily vandalized. Only a few of the original graves remain, marked by piles of stones, wooden crosses, and iron fencing. Unfortunately, the cemetery has been a victim of grave robbery and vandalism over the years.

At one time, Fairbank was a hub of activity along the San Pedro River. Children came from all around to attend its one room schoolhouse. It was never a large town, having only 100 residents at its peak. The town began to die in the early 20th Century, and by 1970 only a small gas station remained.

In 1986, the Bureau of Land Management purchased hundreds of acres of land around the town and created the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Today, the remains of Fairbank have benefited from tourist activity and a few of the original buildings have been preserved. The Bureau of Land Management maintains a small store and museum in the old schoolhouse.

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The Repentant

Receiving vaults in Albany Rural Cemetery, on Cemetery Avenue off NY State Route 32, in Menands, Albany County, New York. Built in 1858, receiving vaults were intended to temporarily house remains before burial, particularly during winter when the ground was too frozen to dig. Modern excavating equipment has rendered these structures obsolete. Designed by Major David Bates Douglass and established in 1841, Albany Rural is a 467-acre National Historic Landmark and the final resting place for over 135,000 people.

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At the Gates

Gates to Bayside Cemetery off County Road 59, south of Clarkson University, in the Village of Potsdam, St. Lawrence County, New York. Bayside Cemetery overlooks Norwood Lake on the Raquette River. This distinctive red stone is called Potsdam Sandstone. Thomas S. Clarkson and his family made a fortune mining it until 1922 and it can be found in many buildings in Potsdam, New York City, and Ottawa, Canada.

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Ben and Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard

Ben and Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard at the Ben and Jerry’s Factory, 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road in Waterbury, Washington County, Vermont. Ben & Jerry’s have discontinued hundreds of ice cream flavors over the years, but only a handful receive the honor of being interred in the Flavor Graveyard. Each headstone marks the dates the flavor was in circulation. Don’t despair, ice cream lovers, they’ve actually held “funerals” for our dearly departed favorites.

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“We bones that here are, for yours await”

I grew up with an interest in cemeteries. As an amateur historian, I loved the Victorian Period especially, with its romantic architecture, literature, and art. The Victorians, of course, were obsessed with death and the macabre. They gave birth to everything familiar about modern horror. But the Victorians weren’t the first to be fixated on this subject. There is a long undercurrent of morbidity in Western culture going back to the Medieval period.

Early Christians didn’t burn their dead like pagans–they stuck them in catacombs where they could be visited, as a reminder of our mortality and that life on this earth is fleeting. On the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) in Portugal, it’s inscribed “Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos” or “We bones that here are, for yours await.” In other words, “this is where you’ll be someday.” The prospect of death emphasizes the emptiness and fleetingness of earthly pleasures, luxuries, and achievements.

For centuries, gravestones and monuments served as that reminder, as well as a lasting memento of a person’s life. Catholic cemeteries in particular featured beautiful statuary of mourning loved ones, saints, and the Holy family. I hate everything about modern cemeteries, with their flat, cheap, and mass-produced headstones. They represent our larger cultural denial of death. We think we’re immortal, and want to hide all reminders of our mortality.

When I was younger, I enjoyed visiting cemeteries and looking at the artwork, and naturally, I wanted to share what I’d seen. As I got better at photography, I thought back to people like Matt Hucke, also a native Chicagoan, who captured images of this beautiful and haunting artwork, much of which is in danger due to erosion and vandalism. Although I’m not nearly as good a photographer, I created this blog to share some of my work. I hope you enjoy seeing these images as much as I enjoyed taking them!