Respect and Devotion, Novodevichy Cemetery, Russia
One of numerous photography projects I've worked on explores notions of devotion through commemoration and memorial. Centered on cemeteries and public memorials the body of work includes photography from Argentina, Australia, India, Greenland and Russia.
As a taste of this project I'm happy to present the above photo made at Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, Russia.
I very much enjoyed wandering around this well tendered cemetery. A popular site on the Moscow tourist trail, many visitors come to view the graves of former political leaders, artists, musicians, scientists and other notable public figures.
It's interesting to see how some of these people are represented in death by their countrymen. In some cases the graves are not all that flattering and, arguably, not terribly respectful.
The above image features a detail from a long wall of smaller memorials. They presented a quieter, more personal experience and were an interesting contrast to some of the larger and more extravagant graves on display.
The cemetery is situated right next door to the Novodevichy Convent, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which, after being given inaccurate information, I arrived at too late to enter. Next time, maybe.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union the Novodevichy Cemetery is used only for the most symbolically significant burials. President Boris Yeltsin is one such figure to have been buried there over recent times. Though, frankly, I felt his grave was too ugly to photograph.
Being Respective Can Help You Make Better Photos
Of course I was very respectful photographing the graves, always from appropriate places and never in a way that would prevent the progress of the many other people visiting the site.
I made sure I stood to one side and allowed the numerous tour groups to do their thing before I set up to make my own photographs.
The staff on duty seemed to appreciate my approach and allowed me to continue, despite the fact I was working with a tripod.
You see its one thing to have a good camera but, from the point of view of many officials, a tripod identifies you as either a professional stills photographer or a videographer. And they can become very suspicious if they think you fit into either of those camps.
I'm excited to announce my very first commercially available eBook Photographing Cemeteries - Transience, Transformation, Transition
Over three year's in the making this eBook features photographs made on six continents and includes a range of short essays on a wide variety of technical, aesthetic and conceptual ideas.
The most important aspect of the book, other than the beautiful photos, is an examination of the way I photographed each of the sacred sites and how a general documentary approach grew, by answering the creative call, into art.
This eBook is of the highest quality and is underpinned by nearly 40 years experience as a professional photographer. Hundreds of hours and a great deal of expense have been invested into this project. It's been a wonderful experience which I'd love to share with you.
If ever you get to Moscow you might well enjoy a wander around the Novodevichy Cemetery. I did and am glad to have added a number of images from my visit into my eBook, Photographing Cemeteries.