Saturday, 23 May 2015

Cemetery Photo Shoot: A matter of taste


Artsy? Tasteless? Kitsch? 

Although it seems customary within the Gothic scene, I find cemetery photo shoots a rather awkward idea for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, the question of taste comes into mind. In my lifetime it is likely that I have seen over a hundred images of Goths photographed in cemeteries, some of which appear harmless whereas others are distasteful and cringe worthy. Not to mention they are about as cliché as the Goths-up-trees photos (tradition courtesy of Robert Smith). Overall, I have no real problem with these images, provided the cemetery goer is respectful and chooses to photograph themselves (or friends) in an artistic and mindful way. That means no gyrating or dry humping grave plots or headstones.


Why do I care? Because I lost my best friend at the age of 24. Although it was from natural causes it was a disastrous shock. Nobody saw it coming, it happened overnight. We (her group of friends) were completely devastated. If I were to learn that some half-wit Goth or Alt fashionista felt compelled to rub his or her naughty bits on my friend's headstone, well I would just lose my fucking shit.

So I implore anyone who may consider a cemetery photo shoot to be respectful. There are people under those headstones, they are not simply rocks with scribbles on them, and those individuals deserve the same amount of respect that they would have received in their waking life. Also, I think that if you were to give the cemetery photo shoot a try, you should do your best to spice it up and forgo the usual Gothy scowl. I've not posted the kistchy or most distasteful photos on this blog (out of respect to those individuals) but I have definitely seen some pretty laughable and gag worthy photographs circling the web! None of us want to end up in one of those pictures.

I might do a cemetery fashion shoot of my own someday, for no other reason than because I adore the sculpture and ornamentation of Victorian era cemeteries. I honestly believe there's more art in the cemetery than in our local museum!

In closing, I have included some fashion photographs taken in cemeteries that I find most delightful and within good taste. (My favorite is today's main photo!) What are your thoughts on cemetery photo shoots? Are they overdone, beautiful, or of poor taste?




















17 comments:

  1. I'm sure the ghost of a lecherous old man/woman would enjoy a sexy half-naked goth posing against the tombstone, but I personally find these types of photos offensive. I'm also not cool with fabulous fashionistas using it as an exotic location or prop. The only way to do a tasteful cemetery shoot is to have a sorrowful note and tone, feelings of loss, reflection, and sadness.... Even if you don't know the dead guy you're posing next to, you should look like you're mourning or feeling something. Interacting with the scenery in a meaningful way, telling a story... Etc

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    1. I'm happy you liked this post! I was attracted to these images because the women were looking whimsical, somber or contemplative, and I like that. As you said there should be some meaning to it, or I think otherwise none at all, but nothing campy or trashy. When someone looks neutral you can still attempt to find meaning in an image, or project your own feelings onto a subject, which could make for an interesting photograph. But never someone squatting in front of tombstone with a plastic skull, looking like they won the lottery lol, that's terrible.

      I have seen pics of people visiting cemeteries smiling, which is okay from a touristy perspective and you can tell when they aren't fashion/art photographs. I think it was in Victorian times where many cemeteries acted as parks and people picnicked in them (certainly a far cry from today)! Even the big cemetery in my city doubles as a dog walkers paradise, but I wouldn't dare leave my dog's shit there, or take a seat on top of somebody's headstone. We've gotta show respect for the dead!

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    2. picnicking and visiting cemeteries is still pretty popular here. There's one in Brooklyn that has a movies and beer night in the summer. There's so few green space here that we take advantage of everything

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    3. That's awesome that they do that! I live in a fairly green city, trees and small parks everywhere, so most people probably prefer normal parks over the cemetery. If I tried to celebrate anything in our cemeteries, people would throw fits I'm sure lol.

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  2. Also I'm glad you brought this topic up! Good post!

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  3. Personally I love cemeteries and think they're beautiful historical places to visit. Last summer my boyfriend and I visited Manitoulin Island and had this exact debate when I wanted to photograph some of the oldest tombstones (17 and 1800s). He thought it was disrespectful, I felt they were beautiful and interesting from a historians perspective (he and I are both trained historians graduating this year). I am of the opinion that if you do it with a deep respect for those buried there, it can be a beautiful place for a photoshoot. I think this is a slippery slope however and I probably won't be doing a fashion shoot in any cemeteries anytime soon out of fear of being caught and yelled at.

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    1. lol I had this same argument with my fiance. We had visited an old graveyard near his former home and I loved to walk among the worn headstones and take pictures. He felt I was being disrespectful, even though I wasn't doing anything illegal. I argued that the people would probably be happy, considering they've been dead for over a hundred years and it's unlikely they get visited any more. He's opened up to my interests now, but I'm not sure if he'll be down with grave rubbing - something I would love to try. It's difficult to gauge what people consider respectful and acceptable, everybody feels differently, but I'm sure at the core of it we all know it's a burial ground and it at least deserves to be kept clean and the grave markers/decorations left alone. I get frightened that a caretaker or funeral mourner might come after me freaking out, but most cemeteries have posted guidelines and encourage visitation, so as long as I'm not breaking anything I figure it's okay! :)

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  4. Great subject, my sister gave me such a hard time when she saw I published some graveyard pics, and she was a goth also! She thought I was in a cult or something.. I also think they can be beautiful if they are within good taste, stylish and romantic, and that it;s the most beautiful kind of art. now they can be disgusting on the other hand if the model is posing in some latex/ fetish clothes, I find that really disrespectful. I also hate any kind of goth cliche! Also I would never take a pic with one specific grave, like my mother's. But being someone who has a dearest person lying in a graveyard, I think I'm "allowed" to decide if I think it's respectful or not for myself...

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    1. There's really a bad stigma with Goths and cemeteries. Some people are chill with it and others think Goths are up to no good - which sometimes they are - but imagine me visiting my friend's or one of my grandfathers' graves, and getting yelled at for it just because of how I look! People need to loosen up. The cemetery is a wonderful place full of history and art. As you said though, the fetish latex wear is inappropriate, besides, it looks better in a boudoir setting lol. I think if you were to photograph a grave site of a loved one it is totally your call. I know people who do that for documentation purposes, or to share with family. The weirdest thing I've seen thus far is funeral photos, I'm not down with those but I understand it acts as closure for some people.

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  5. Also, I might add, I dont think our deceased loved ones hang out at the graveyard, I think they are always around, so I think of the headstones mostly as a kind of art in their honour. I dont go to the grave to contact my mom, I can do that anywhere :) I think the funeral and the graves are there just to remind us about the finality of death, like when I see her picture on a headstone I realize she's really dead, not like, gone on a vacation or something. It's an important psychological moment :/

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    1. Definitely! That's closure for you. I had a hard time processing my friend's death. Seeing her in the casket, touching her arm and knowing she'd be in an urn did it for me. I like to think people are somehow still connected to their burial sites, but it sort of conflicts with my hope that we're reborn or transferred into something else after we die lol. Either way, I hope our spirits end up happy. :)

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  6. I've done two rather cliche goth cemetery photoshoots, but none of the photos were taken by actual gravestones, but artsy crypts, which is barely within my limits, but...anyway. I have mixed feelings about this, because I do love ghotsy / whimsical fashion editorials photographed in memorial parks or cemeteries, but I the thought of disrespectful punks climbing onto the gravestrones upsets me.

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    1. There's nothing wrong with one or two cliche photo shoots lol we're all guilty of them. I've seen more and more photos being taken in cemeteries and at memorial landmarks in mainstream fashion, and I can't tell if that's a good or a bad thing. Sometimes it's meant for the sake of art and other times it's clearly for shock value. In my undergrad I recall seeing a high fashion advertisement of a woman looking as though she was being assaulted; the image was banned but still received tons of praise for being "daring". My hope is that if designers continue to utilize cemeteries as settings for their photo shoots, they are mindful about how it's received and are not using it to shock people.

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  7. I can understand your sentiment, and would not approve if someone was sexy squirming all over a lost one's grave. But most of these shoots seem to take place in really old (parts of) cemeteries, and standing on a statue over someone who passed in the 1800's seems pretty harmless to me.

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    1. You're right, people tend to gravitate to the older headstones, probably because they're prettier. It's still sort of a gray area for me though in regards to photographing them, mostly because here in Ontario there are very few headstones that pre-date the 1850's. The old headstones are often located in family burial plots, so I still run the risk of offending surviving family members. I would just have to hope not to get caught by one of them. I often wish there were really old headstones here, but my country is too young. >.<

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  8. definitely love these shots but personally i prefer to take pictures of tobstones themselves or with some spidery detail... dunno why O_O

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    1. lol You don't know why? It's because it's awesome!

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