Friday, October 1, 2010

Cemetery Photography Books

I was just sitting here this morning munching a bowl of Cap'n Sucrose, looking at my bookcase full of cemetery books. Over the years, I've amassed quite a few of them. I thought I'd share some of the titles with you in case you need a couple to round out your collection.  Most are cemetery-related photography books, but some deal with the broader subjects of death, burial, and mourning practices. Topics that seem to be of interest to most cemetery photographers.

There are many more books out there and I welcome suggestions to add to the list. With rare exception, these are just the books I myself own. Also bear in mind that many cemeteries themselves have published their own books.

Before I begin the list (in alphabetical order), I have to pay special homage to the book that started it all for me, what I consider to be the bible of cemetery memorial photography: Going Out in Style - The Architecture of Eternity by Douglas Keister. His was my first purchase of a book of this kind, and a decade later, I feel it has no equal. This wonderful hardbound volume is full of color photos as well as knowledgeable and entertaining text. (Visit Doug Keister on Facebook.)

Cemetery Photography Book List:

Angels by Marcia Lippman
Thirty postcards, hand-tinted images.

A Retrospective by George Krause
Half of these fine art images by photographer George Krause are death related--tombstone death portraits, monuments, and South American icon statues. Fabulous introduction.

Beautiful Death by David Robinson and foreward by Dean Koontz
Fabulous color photos of European cemetery memorials with a shockingly lucid and introspective intro by horror writer Dean Koontz.

Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts - A History of Burial by Penny Colman
With photos and text, Colman balances grim facts about embalming and mourning with accounts of curious and witty gravestones and eccentric burial requests, turning the otherwise dark material into entertaining reading.

Death--A History of Man's Obsessions and Fears by Robert Wilkins
Very entertaining and informative yet somewhat gruesome! Mostly text. Possibly the most interesting book of its kind I've read.

Death - A User's Guide by Tom Hickman
Cute little pocket-size book covers famous last words, quirky undertaker tales, bizarre burials, etc. All text. Perfect gift for the cemetery photographer!

Ghosthunter - A Journey Through Haunted France by Simon Marsden
Glorious black and white infrared photos by one of the true masters of the medium. Castles and cemeteries, with text. (Simon Marsden on the Web.)

Mourning Art and Jewelry by Maureen DeLorme
If all you photograph are tombstones, you'll be amazed at the galaxy of Victorian funerary art that has been hidden from public view for a century.

Philadelphia Area Cemeteries by Allan M. Heller
An interesting book of text and photos that offers short histories, legends, and hauntings related mainly to small, obscure cemeteries in the Philadelphia "area," rather than the better-known larger Philadelphia city cemeteries.

Philadelphia Graveyards and Cemeteries by Thomas H. Keels
Very informative, albeit local, documentation of many of the region's burial grounds, both extant and long gone.

Postmortem Collectibles by C.L. Miller
Half photos, half text. Covers everything, from embalming chemicals to tombstones! One of the few books in print that features once popular photographic portraits of the deceased.

Saving Graces by David Robinson
Photo essay on the art of sensual statues in European cemeteries. Many cemeteries in Europe are strewn with shockingly sensual sculptures of women. They are idealized creations--young, gorgeous, elaborately posed, and beautifully sculpted. Robinson's exquisite photographs reveal the angelic beauty and mystery of these lifelike sculptures.

Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America - by Stanley Burns
Perhaps the most eye-opening, yet shocking book of vintage corpse photography in existence. Sorry, death portrait photography. Expensive, but amazing!

Sleeping Beauty II: Grief, Bereavement in Memorial Photography by Stanley Burns and Elizabeth A. Burns
The only book in this list I haven't read or even seen. If its anything like Burns' prior book, it should be awesome.

My apologies to the alphabet--allow me a taxonomic entry, if you would: I felt it appropriate to follow the Sleeping Beauty books with a few of Joel-Peter Witkin's. His contemporary fine art  corpse photography gives new meaning to the term "still life."
Forty Photographs
Gods of Earth and Heaven 
Songs of Experience
The Bone House  

Soul in the Stone - Cemetery Art from America's Heartland by John Gary Brown
This is a large hardback volume of mostly photos, with some text. Epitaphs, unusual statuary, and childrens' monuments are prominent features.

Stone Angels - A Celebration of the Mourning Arts by Ed Snyder (yes, yours truly!)
A book of text and original photography celebrating the grandeur of Victorian funerary art and its most notable subject, the cemetery angel. These ubiquitous denizens of the garden cemetery lend themselves to transformation into powerful photographic imagery. In travelling the world (well, some of it), Ed Snyder reports back with his funereal findings and shares new artwork that he has created in these Victorian sculpture gardens.

Stairway to Heaven: The Final Resting Places of Rock’s Legends by J.D. Reed, Maddy Miller
Interesting color photos of various rock stars' and other musicians' graves. The text won't reveal anything to you about your favorite band that you don't already know. (Read the review on my site.)

Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography by Douglas Keister
For my money, the best handbook of cemetery memorial symbolism you can buy. High quality paper stock with many color photos.

The Best of Silent Cities by Jeane Trend-Hill
A photo book featuring some of the most interesting and unusual monuments photographed during the last five years by renowned memorial photographer Jeane Trend-Hill. Check out her entire series of cemetery photography books at

The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult by Clement Cheroux et al.
Fabulous photographs and text from "spiritualists" of the late 1800's. When photography was new and magical, it was believed that it could record the spirits of the dead on film. (
Read the review on my site

The American Resting Place by Marilyn Yalom
400 years of American history through cemeteries and burial grounds; photos and text.

Your Guide to Cemetery Research by Sharon Debartolo Carmack
Written by a genealogist and an admitted cemetery addict, the book of photos and text addresses a specialized area of genealogical research that can yield a wealth of historical and ancestral information. Chapters cover capturing a tombstone's information, epitaphs and poetry, and the value (and pitfalls) of cemetery transcription and preservation projects.