Elmwood Cemetery: Introducing the Grave Guardians

Elmwood Cemetery - Wilkinson & Starks

Elmwood Cemetery – Wilkinson & Starks
70-200mm @200 mm, 1/5 s, f/22, ISO 400

I visited Elmwood Cemetery this past weekend with a couple of friends.  While there, one of them was excited to learn that Bear Bryant’s grave was in the cemetery.  Who wouldn’t want to take a picture of a famous football coach’s tombstone (Bear would have been 103 – he was born on 9/11/1913).  The website gave precise coordinates, down to three decimal places – pretty cool!  He plugged the coordinates into his GPS and was all set to start walking, only to learn that it was a longer walk than he had hoped, about 712 miles.  Bear was buried at Elmwood in Birmingham, Alabama, and we were in Detroit, MI.

Elmwood Cemetery - Henry Billings Brown

Elmwood Cemetery – Henry Billings Brown
20 mm, 1/4 s, f/22, ISO 400

Alas, we had to settle for less famous people, such as Henry Billings Brown, a turn-of-the-century (late 1800’s) associate justice of the US Supreme Court.  We also saw Ford’s there, but I don’t see evidence that the gravesite belonged to “The Ford’s”.  Actually, graves of historic personages was not my focus.  Instead, I think we were all really there to capture an ambiance in this historic, 86-acre cemetery, which dates back to 1846.  If you’d like to learn more about its background, design influence from Frederick Law Olmsted, and its ties to Abolition and the Underground Railroad, you may find this site interesting.

Cemetery Grave Guardians

My goal was to create a mood, not spooky, but certainly dark and enclosing.  If you visit my cemetery gallery, you can let me know if came close.  The eight black and white photos were all taken at Elmwood, while the one color image was taken at a cemetery in Jamestown, New York.  I refer to that one as “Grave Guardians”, which is how I tend to think of all graveyard sculpture: as guardians of the dead.

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