On a smaller scale, this happens to me a lot. I visit many cemeteries. While I may look up their location beforehand, I generally do no research as to the interesting things inside, so to speak. I prefer to discover them myself.
In certain cases, I get upset when I find that I've missed things, like all the mobsters’ graves at St. John Cemetery in Queens, NY. On the other hand, I was quite tickled when I happened upon, all by my lonesome, U.S. President Grover Cleveland‘s grave marker in New Jersey’s Princeton Cemetery.
|"Angel of Sorrows," sunnyside Cemetery, Long Beach, California|
It seems that master photographer Ansel Adams preferred the derricks. That is, he made photographs of this statue in 1939 with the derricks in the scene. Well, I cannot say for sure that he did not photograph the statue without the derricks, but this is the one he printed and is part of his vast portfolio. When Adams made these and other photographs in the Los Angeles area in 1939-40, the oil derricks were taller and the trees were shorter.
"Cemetery Statue & Oil Derricks, Long Beach, Calif." - Ansel Adams, 1939
|Modern oil derricks near Sunnyside Cemetery|
|"Sunnyside Cemetery in Long Beach," Ansel Adams, c. 1940 (Ref.)|
Adams’ other famous cemetery photograph, by the way, "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941" is more pictorial than documentary. The photograph (shown below) is arguably "the best known and most sought after photograph in the field of fine-art photography" (ref.). You may be surprised that other master photographers have also made photographs in cemeteries. Walker Evans photographed St. Michael’s Cemetery in Bethlehem, PA (1935), Paul Strand photographed headstones in Vermont (1944), and even Edward Weston photographed graveyards and funerary chapels in New Orleans (1941).
|Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941 - Ansel Adams (ref.)|
Other than Adams’ “Moonrise” photo, none of these other internationally famous photographers became internationally famous for their cemetery photographs. Perhaps they were still cutting their teeth to find their niche. They have since become widely known and have achieved great acclaim for photographing other subjects – landscapes, people, still-lifes. Perhaps their studies of form and shape related to cemetery architecture was part of their formative process of seeing the world. Perhaps it is mine, as well.
I'd like to conclude this post with an explanation of Ansel Adams' Long Beach photographs, which I quote from the Los Angeles Public Library website. You may find this amusing!
"Around 1939, Ansel Adams was commissioned by Fortune magazine to photograph a series of images for an article covering the aviation history of the Los Angeles area. For the project, Adams took 217 photographs showing everyday life, businesses, street scenes, aerospace employees, and a variety of other subjects, but when the article, "City of Angels," appeared in the March 1941 issue, only a few of the images were included. In the early 1960s, approximately 20 years later, Adams rediscovered all of the photographs among papers at his home in Carmel, and sent a letter of inquiry to the Los Angeles Public Library, asking if the institution would be interested in receiving the collection as a donation. In his letter, Adams expressed that, "the weather was bad over a rather long period and none of the pictures were very good" and "if they have no value whatsoever, please dispose of them in the incenerator [sic]." He went on to write that "I would imagine that they represent about $100.00 minimum value." In response, the Los Angeles Public Library gladly accepted the gift of 135 contact prints and 217 negatives, and the staff concluded that a fair value for the collection would be $150.00"
References and Further Reading: