Sunday, November 21, 2004
Flirting with Death
When I got back into photography about three years ago, I was looking for subject matter. Well, I never was all that great at street photography, or shooting anything that moved much at all for that matter. So I was looking for static subjects, figuring I'd concentrate on composition, shapes, colors, etc.
By the fall of 2002, I was regularly attending a meeting in Annapolis early Saturday mornings, and where I parked happened to be directly adjacent to St. Anne's Cemetery. It didn't hit me right away, but one day a few weeks later, as I walked back to my car, I realized that here were acres of subject matter! St. Anne's dates back to 1790, so there are lots of old and interesting tombstones and mausoleums... and tombstones don't move very fast.
I had been planning to drive a few blocks to City Dock for my Saturday morning photo outing, but decided to canvass the cemetery instead. Two hour later, I finally headed home, oddly excited over cracked headstones and ancient inscriptions.
For a while, my after-the-meeting photo tour of St. Anne's was a regular thing. As winter progressed I even found myself slogging through the snow at times. One of those snowy sessions, the day after Valentine's Day 2003, yielded Cemetary Valentine.
By Spring 2003, my portfolio was full of photos taken at St. Anne's. I didn't mean for it to seem morbid - I just found a lot in the graveyard that was beautiful and evocative in its own way.
Still, me being me, I'd find ways to get in trouble. Once, I was taking pictures of a very old, cracked grave ledger. The texture of the ledger and the old writing, combined with the decrepit condition, made for an interesting composition. But there was all that gray! It needed a little spot of color. Some few dozen yards distant, I noticed a newly-dug gravesite, fronted with at least three meter's worth of floral arrangements - it must have been from a day earlier. I walked over, and swiveling my head to see if anyone was watching, I plucked a single rose from one of the arrangements, perhaps one-tenth of one percent of what was there... and with all due respect, not to be missed by the just-interred soul.
The purloined rose was just what that old grave ledger needed! Everyone who sees it says what a compelling photo it is. But when I told my wife Sandy the story behind it, she was shocked, shocked! that I would commit post-mortem larceny in such a sanctified surrounding.
Ben's reaction was more pragmatic than ecclesiastic: "Dad, enough with the flower on the grave routine!" and then, "... enough with the grave photos, for that matter!"
He was right - it was time for me to move on. I haven't been back to St. Anne's for more than a year. But yesterday, as I was leaving my Mother's apartment in Pikesville, I realized that I was just one block from Druid Ridge, a beautifully-kept cemetery well-known for the craftsmanship of many of its early 20th-century memorials. Hmmmmm, vibrant fallen autumn leaves against the gray of tombstones and mausoleums... how could I pass that up?