In the country, I love the old Churches and their architecture and I use every opportunity to photograph them. Some are incredibly ornate and some are far more simple in design. In the Free State, many are lovely sandstone structures.
Visiting Churches also affords another opportunity to visit cemeteries which I love. One may think this is morbid behaviour but it is most definitely not.
A person who loves cemeteries is a “Tapophile”.I never knew this but found it out on a photo walk at a local cemetery.
Many cemeteries were designed to have a garden-like feel with trees and flower beds and are often stand-alone not adjacent to a Church.
Gravestones can be ornate or simple but are meant to be seen. They show that those who are interred are loved and respected. The memories are cherished. A local cemetery near my suburb has a dedicated section for well-known celebrities with large decorated gravestones.
It’s not a ghoulish practice, it’s extremely interesting. To a photographer, they present endless opportunities. One can learn so much about the community and its history. You may even locate relatives, in Bethlehem, I was able to find the grave of my grandparents whom I had never met. You also get war graves which are rich in history and also tell a story. So cemeteries are part of our history. As are the battlefield memorials.
They are like outdoor museums. Rich in history and telling a story. Old cemeteries even show what the life expectancy was many years ago.
Sadly many of the cemeteries we visit are somewhat run down as priorities change in these small towns, even in larger towns as well.
In some cases, they are vandalised for any metal that may be around. Even metal gates and fence posts are stolen. As well as metal grave markers erected for British soldiers who perished in the Anglo-Boer War.
Sadly some of the cemeteries in metro areas are no longer safe to visit unless you go on a weekend when there is safety in numbers.
But it’s still the cemeteries in the small “dorps” that fascinate.
Numerous people are interested in cemeteries, but if you want to get started here are a few tips to get going;
- Visit a cemetery nearby, you will be amazed at what to will find.
- When in the country locate a cemetery, they are rich with history, especially in the older towns.
- Take a camera there are numerous photo opportunities.
- Use “golden” light, that magical light early in the morning or late afternoon.
- Pay attention and explore.
- Before travelling do some research as to what may have happened in an area.
- If doing battlefields don’t ’jump” from one conflict to another, if it’s the “Boer” war then look at conflicts in an area.
- Make safety a priority, if in doubt avoid going in.
- Don’t feel odd.
- Read the tombstones they are rich in information.
So there are many reasons why people like cemeteries and numerous people who do. And you will be amazed to see what you will find, one of the simplest graves I found was in Nieu Bethesda. The grave of Helen Martins of the “Owl House” ,a simple concrete owl in celebration of a life that ended so sadly.