If you’ve taken the time to look through my web site you’ve probably noticed my Graveyard Gallery. My wife and I have always liked strolling the old colonial graveyards of New England, reading the inscriptions and wondering about the people and the time in which they lived. About ten years ago I became interested in the iconography associated with the stones of the eighteenth century and began to read/study about Puritan symbols and their application on stone grave markers of the period. So it was only natural (well to me any way) that when I picked up my camera again that I started photographing the stones and the wonderful carvings. (We’ll leave the question of “are photographs of others art really original” alone for now) As I studied the images I began to appreciate the creativity these men had rendering beautiful images using only the simplest iron tools and their own physical talents.
Some of the symbols, depending on the age and/or the carver were very simple and plain. Others much more complex and rich in symbolism regarding the fleeting time spent in this world and the promise of the life that follows our demise. All are evident on the head-piece at right – found at the old burial ground in Plymouth Massachusetts dating from 1743. Fleeting time – the hour glass, mortality – the skeleton and resurrection – the plant sprouting from the skull are all powerful symbols even today and would have truly resonated with devote Christians of the eighteenth century
This weekend I had an opportunity to learn more and begin to gain a better appreciation of the work that went into making these stones. By doing so I hope to be able to better represent through my lens the works these fine craftsmen rendered so many years ago. I took a two day “beginners class” in stone carving with Adam Paul Heller in West Warwick Road Island. Being challenged to draw a decent stick figure I was a bit apprehensive about the class but wanted to understand the process in more depth. (I also have this idea about carving our tombstone and getting some practical use out of it as a coffee table, after all a typical stone is damn expensive and … but we’ll leave that for a later post.) Adam is a great (and patient) teacher and I came away with what I was looking for as well as a new hobby and possibly a new coffee table.
…..although that might be a few years off yet.