October 31st marks the beginning of Allhallowtide, a time to remember the dead. Though the trees are dying for the year and they’re more beautiful than ever, more fragrant than ever. Autumn marks the real death of summer, the end of the harvest, a time of darkness and cold. But this is also a time when the spirits of the dead come back to visit us, when it’s easier for them to make their presence known. This is uncanny, in the sense that we can’t know it or understand it, but it’s not necessarily frightening. It’s all part of the cycle of death and rebirth, light and darkness. Marc Reed spent many hours in a number of cemeteries to make his time-lapse film Necropolis, and reflected on our attitudes to death, dying, and burial.
The author Christopher Hitchens called tombstones “stone buoys that mark a drowned world,” and that’s likely why I find them appealing. They fit well within the theme of my work.
Most of my videos are of lost and forgotten places, and while visiting these places I have often pondered the people that once inhabited them. Who were they…where are they? To a large extent they are here. These are the inhabitants of my “drowned worlds.”
The visuals of upright tombstones starkly juxtaposed against angry skies begged me to dust off my time lapse rigs. Shooting time-lapse video as opposed to straight video is akin to filling a bucket with a dripping faucet as opposed to a hose. Depending on your settings, ten seconds of footage requires roughly an hour of shooting. Point being I spent a lot of time last winter hanging around cemeteries. I would set up my timelapse cameras and allow them to click away as I wandered the grounds. After some time of this it became apparent to me that the American Cemetery is well beyond its “golden age.” The mathematics of every person having an 8′ x 4′ final resting place is catching up with us and the local cemeteries and churchyards are getting full. Burial is inefficient and expensive so the practice of cremation has grown to capture nearly 50% of the current American “death care” market. So it seems that cemeteries themselves are taking a place among the abandoned steel mills and coal mines of America: soon-to-be obsolete reminders of our collective yesteryear.
Photos taken at Riverdale Cemetery, Trenton NJ; Mount Moriah Cemetery, Philadephia NJ; Doylestown Cemetery, Doylestown, PA; Amwell Ridge Cemetery, Ringoes, NJ, and Mount Hope Cemetery, Lambertville, NJ.
Marc Reed is a painter, photographer, film maker, animator, web designer and developer, illustrator, casual trespasser, home improvement afficionado, wine maker, hiker, paddler and father – not necessarily in that order. See more of Marc Reed’s films, paintings, photography, and musings here.