From my early childhood, I remember numerous family visits to old New England cemeteries. During these visits we would look at the old gravestones, trying to make out the names, epitaphs and dates of birth and death. Those visits made me think about life and death, and how life had been in colonial times. They also made me aware of early American cemetery folk art.
Cemetery folk art offers us windows into the lives and cultures of people from a certain time and place. In summing up individual lives, cemetery art also tells us something about what people collectively valued and how they defined their lives.
I still visit cemeteries and look for examples of such folk art. But since I first discovered instances in the late 1970s, these days I look for and record examples of modern cemetery art. In the expressions of love and loss, and in the symbols and tokens commemorating the lives of loved ones, this art offers a sense of what gives life meaning in our present time and place.
The title of this project derives from part of a popular epitaph on old (and some new) gravestones:
“Stranger pause, as you pass by. As you are now so once was I.
As I am now so you must be. Prepare yourself to follow me.”
Over the past few years I’ve posted several galleries for this project. This is a collection of some of my favorites.
(Clicking on any image will open a slide show.)
All photographs are © Dave Higgins and “Dave Higgins Photography,” 2015; all rights reserved.