“Gravestyles of the Rich and Famous”
This is a collection of photographs of the gravestones of famous people.
In the early 1990s I went for a walk around Nunhead cemetery in South-East London. I was smitten by the eeriness of the graveyard, and fascinated by the inscriptions on the tombstones. I started visiting other London graveyards, and inevitably I came across graves of famous people. I found it very moving and strange that people who in life had been so famous and kind of “untouchable”, now lay side by side with ordinary mortals – I have yet to come across a “celebrity graveyard” (although Pere Lachaise in Paris comes pretty close!) I was also fascinated by the flowers and messages sometimes left by fans – and I always made it a point to photograph the graves exactly as I found them, never moving or adding to any of these souvenirs.
I have to admit that I became a bit obsessed with my new project! I would go up to the Barbican library and gradually worked my way from A to Z in the biographies section, always flicking straight to the end of each book to try to find out where the subject was buried*. Weekend daytrips would usually be planned so that I could also visit someone’s grave nearby, and I am very lucky that my husband was prepared to put up with this single-mindedness.
All this changed in 1994 with the birth of my son, followed 3 years later by my daughter. As a full-time working mother, there was no space in my life for any serious photography, apart from taking “snaps” of my children. My darkroom equipment was packed away in the loft, and we eventually moved to a house with no possibilities for a darkroom…
In 1999 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and although I continued to work full-time (I was an IT manager), last year my doctors advised that I should be taking it easier so I now work just one day a week in a consultancy role.
Being an eternal optimist I have decided to turn this enforced break to my advantage – at last I have the time to do something about my collection of images. I have therefore collected together the negatives, scanned them in to my PC, and started writing little “biographies” of the subjects, in the hope that other people would share my interest…
Aysen Slack, 2006
*(Of course, nowadays it would be so much easier, as I could have done it all online – there is now a website called findagrave.com which has all that information in one place!).