Hopkins demonstrates a keen eye for crumbling stone, the interplay of memorial markers and the abundant life of the surrounding trees and foliage, and the impulse to impose order on the messiness of life and death through graveyard symmetry. (She also deftly arranges the images so that their corresponding qualities enrich each other on the page.) The individual carvings and headstones remain fascinating throughout, especially the oldest, with their skulls and death’s heads suggesting how much closer death felt in ages past, the markers’ messages still clear even when their faces are faded by centuries. Occasional surprises offer jolts of recognition of our own era: a freshly dug grave, not yet filled, or a pair of stone rabbit garden figurines, their cutesy tackiness suddenly endowed with greater significance.
Supplementing the photos are short, well-chosen excerpts from a poetry anthology from the 1890s, plus selections from authors like Louisa May Alcott and Leo Tolstoy—who, while always edifying to read, isn’t exactly an authority on American ways of dying. But he speaks to the larger truth that powers Hopkins’s work, and any healthy fascination with places of remembrance: each of these markers represents a life and all that entails. There’s beauty, wisdom, and peace in this collection.
Takeaway: This striking collection of cemetery photography sheds light on the American way of memorialization.
Great for fans of: Yolanda Zappaterra’s Cities of the Dead, Lorraine Evans’s Burying the Dead.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A