A first for me occurred on Monday, when I was accosted by a superintendent at a particular cemetery in Queens. Seeing my camera in hand he yelled “What are you doing?” I asked “What do you mean?” He informed me photo and video recording were not allowed here. I honestly did not know this, and replied as such. He didn’t seem to care enough to make me delete the 40+ minutes of video I’d just recorded. I lied and said I only took a couple of shots, and that he had nothing to worry about as far as me posting anything online.
I’ve been strambling around NYC cemeteries since 2002 and I cannot remember a single such altercation as this. There have been incidents, particularly at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Astoria, where security detail followed me for every step I took, evidently flagging me as suspicious when I was not doing anything even remotely disrespectful or weird.
This caused me to take my business elsewhere after thinking I had decided once and for all I would be interred at St. Michael’s in one of the community mausoleums. I’ll take my remains elsewhere.
I thought about posting the video from Monday anyway, with cryptic references to its location. But that seemed petty and, more importantly, the quality of the video sucked. That’s too bad because the content was worthwhile. But there was too much lens flare and dust on the lens. All we are is dust on the lens…
It reminded me of an incident in which I learned after the fact that photography is not allowed at the Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village. After posting over 2 dozen photos at All Faiths in 2007 I took a look at their website, which is no longer online but archived at the Wayback Machine. It explicitly stated that photos are not allowed without a permit, and they even had hourly rates for anyone wanting to take photos or shoot video on the grounds.
When I found their website. I was surprised and even offended to discover that All Faiths had deliberately scraped images off my site for use on theirs, with no credit to me. I contacted the cemetery through their publicly posted e-mail address, and I seem to remember attempting to contact Dodge Media Design, the web development company responsible for the site. Dodge Media Design does not seem to exist by that name anymore. No one responded and the images stayed on the All Faiths Cemetery website for years.
After giving it reasoned thought I decided that complaining about using my photos when I should not have taken them in the first place made my complaints seem inappropriate. It was likely the web design company that scraped the images, while the cemetery itself was unaware. If anything, bringing it to their attention came with the risk of them sending me a bill for $1000, which would have been their ½ day rate for filming or photography on their grounds.
Still, if the photos were good enough for them to use a simple photo credit does not seem completely unreasonable.
Until finding their policies on their website I had no reason to expect a no-photography policy at All Faiths. I once interacted directly with a cemetery worker there who helped me pinpoint the location of a burial site so I could photograph it. I don’t remember if I told him I was being paid to do this, for whatever difference that would have made. This was during my forensic genealogist days, when people from far away paid me $75 to go out to NYC cemeteries and get photos of their forebears’ and ancestors’ tombstones.
Many cemeteries have policies forbidding photography and video but I’ve never seen it enforced, even when security guards or groundskeepers are looking right at me when I’m using a camera. I’ve even seen photography encouraged by groundskeepers at Old Calvary and other yards.
That is all I have to say.
By the way you can see the cemetery stuff I’ve been posting to YouTube at my New York City Cemeteries playlist.