Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Laurel Grove...

In recent years, I have developed an interest in photographing cemeteries. Living in the deep south puts me in prime territory for old graveyards that are rife with history and mood.

Since moving to Savannah, I have visited and explored two of the three main cemeteries known for their historical significance. The first, The Bonaventure, would have to be the most popular and the better known due to it being featured in Clint Eastwood's film version of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil". It is a place I have visited on a number of occasions. The second, Colonial Park Cemetery, in downtown Savannah. Rather diminutive at barely a block in size, it is surrounded by businesses, apartment buildings, and busy streets, the buildings being rather old themselves. Although it lies on the sacred ground of a cemetery, many people (probably neighbors to the site) seem to treat it like a small city park. On my visit there I saw people sitting on blankets eating their lunch, and even one character playing Frisbee with his dog. The sandwich eaters I could take, but the man playing with his dog...have some respect...
The third cemetery is one I have wanted to visit for some time. Today I finally found it. Tucked into a rougher area full of pot-hole filled roads and ramshackle row houses of the historical district, is the Laurel Grove Cemetery. This particular graveyard has two sections that are set apart from one another. The north section (the one I saw today) was for whites, and the south section was for slaves. As I said before this is the deep south, and segregation and slavery are parts of our history...as sad as that is. Many graves here date back to the confederacy, and when I do a bit more research I won't be surprised if I find that there are graves that date before that.

What moves me most to visit and photograph old cemeteries is the energy present. A sense of peace bordering on the mystical. Laurel Grove is rather large, and has a lot of nooks and crannies to explore. I see more than one return visit in my near future. Maybe even this week. The pictures in this post were all shot during today's preliminary visit, and all but one of them from my car window. The cemetery gates close at 5:00 PM, and it was past 4:00 PM when we arrived. I don't know if they have some sort of procedure in place for notifying visitors that the gates are about to close, but on the chance they didn't I made sure to keep a close watch on the time. By all appearances, no one else was there as we saw no other signs of life other than ourselves. Getting locked inside a graveyard...although intriguing from the outside - that thought alone conjures some story ideas...well, it wasn't something I wanted to leave to chance.
In the next couple of days I plan on returning to Laurel Grove for an 'on foot' photography session. I am looking forward to getting a closer perspective on areas out of reach of my car window.

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