For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it.
– Ivan Panin
An argument with my son about the aesthetics of cemeteries has me thinking of beauty.
A brief but hysterical phone call berating me for posting so many photographs of cemeteries, of graves and headstones, everlasting ceramic floral arrangements nicked and chipped, monuments to the often-forgotten dead. On instagram. Morbid. Horrific. Bad taste.
You are a food blogger, he reminded me. You should be posting pictures of food! They – always the enigmatic, elusive they, they don't like photos of cemeteries and want to see photos of food. Long streams of cemetery pictures; it's inappropriate.
Slightly taken aback, slightly amused, I tried to calm him down and explain, refusing to stoop to defending myself. Loathing the need to account for my actions, my choices. I actually find cemeteries beautiful. Mysterious. Hauntingly mysterious and beautiful. I love the stories they tell. I love the calm, the silence, the peace one finds in a cemetery. And I always have. This is what I attempt to capture in my photos.
Cemeteries. I listen for ghosts (maybe my own), I watch the leaves flutter through the trees, the clouds glide quietly across the sky. I stare up at monuments, well-known names forever etched over elegantly carved, forlornly shattered and rusted mausoleum doors. Soldiers, soldiers everywhere Mort pour la France.
Whether chairs, headstones, graffiti, monuments or buildings, I am fascinated by the stories that surround me everyday. Unexpected art, unlooked for tales, unpredictable beauty. There is a quiet elegance in a cemetery. Violence has melted away into time, sadness faded into gentle melancholy, whispered dreams, weeping sculptures.
I flick through my instagram feed and see enough food photos to feed a planet. I find myself pausing at more curious, unusual, thoughtful images. Images that tell a story. That lead me elsewhere other than yet another kitchen, another restaurant, another meal.
Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. - Plato
So, excuse me, my son, and unfollow me if you must. I can neither write nor shoot for another's guidelines or expectations. When I write and when I take a photograph, it must have meaning for me, significance to me. It must move me emotionally, make me think and contemplate other lives, other places, other stories.
― Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais