Friday, May 21, 2010
On the Road to the Necropolis
This blog is a reasonable facsimile of an article I had published in the Oct. 2004 issue of Weird New Jersey magazine. In the years I’ve been roaming around cemeteries, the first four were spent shooting angels. I bagged a good number of them by the time someone told me about this great cemetery that flanked the Parkway, near East Orange, NJ. So I made the trip.
They were right. The place was thick with angels. You couldn’t swing a cat without hitting one, as Mark Twain would say. During that visit, maybe in 2001, my head was turned from the saintly to the creepy. New Jersey certainly has its share of creepy, and many of them were here in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.
Surrounded by innercity-ness, the large, yet quaint garden cemetery was punctuated by police cruisers and groundskeepers. Not atypical to find a cop or mailman lunching in a boneyard, but the sheer quantity of the cop cars at Holy Sepulchre was unusual.
A groundskeeper with a weedwhacker, working in the cemetery, stopped me and said “Don’t lose sight of your car.” One on a riding mower cut his engine and came over to me saying: “You know, I was held up at gunpoint here last year while on my mower …” Hence, the cop cars.
As I walked around shooting the necrotecture, the chief caretaker rolled up in his pickup and wanted to know my business. (With regard to photographing in cemeteries, I've long felt that its much easier to get forgiveness than permission!) After I explained, he was ok with my shooting, but added: “These damn film crews from New York come in here to make movies… They run around knocking over tombstones.”
The images accompanying this text were captured on that day (in 2001) and remain some of my favorites. I’ve continued to feed my morbid fascination at other cemeteries around the country, but few images match the intensity of this one that I call "The Bishop." The relief was mounted over the entrance to an ornate mausoleum. Years later, because people would ask me where I made the image, I Googled the cemetery and found it to be actually nicknamed “Bishop’s Cemetery.” Go figure. Must be more to the story, but that’s where I run out of talent.