Spent some time at the cemetery today. I don’t remember how long it had been, but I can’t have been there much since starting the full time job. The chapel remains closed, which is a bummer. A sign up front announcing the resumption of the Saturday Field Mass had me thinking they’d reopen the chapel during the week like they used to. No dice. Guess they’re not playing games with Covid, not even now.
I took few photos, and made no video. I’ve changed my thinking about cemetery photography and videography. In fact I always had scruples. What right of mine is it to scoop up the ephemera of a life lived, of thousands of lives lived?
But the moral or ethical navel-gazing questions give way to the reality that cemeteries are private property, and virtually all of them have some kind of rule forbidding photography and video recording. How aggressively those rules are enforced varies enormously but all told the photos taken out there could be grounds for legal remedies should a particular cemetery want to make a point or use one particular social media star as an example.
This matter came to a head for me a couple of months ago when someone from out of state asked me to get photos of his forebear’s gravesite at the Lutheran Cemetery in Maspeth. I had multiple reasons for not being enthusiastic about this little side hustle which used to make me as much as $750 a month (every nickel of it reported to the IRS, btw). One non-starter is the time commitment. A photo run like this takes, on average, about 4 hours. When the getting’ was good I could combine multiple requests at a single cemetery and make it well worth the time. Not so much for a single job.
More important to me was the fact that it’s the Lutheran Cemetery, final resting place of Fred Trump, father of you know who. His site has attracted a lot of unwanted visitations and made the cemetery management suspicious of visitors seen anywhere near it and, from what I understand, they’ve become suspicious of virtually all visitors. They always kinda were that way, as I recall.
Another backstory about the Lutheran Cemetery is that they stole photos off my website. Or did they? They were pictures I took at their cemetery, where there is a strict no photography policy. In my somewhat lame defense I was honestly unaware of this rule but that doesn’t matter. It created an uneasy connection between myself and the Lutheran when I contacted them to ask wtf, why’d you steal my photos without asking.
They were not my photos. The cemetery had more of a right to them than I did. It is hard to imagine they would have bothered pursuing legal remedies but it remains true that I should have felt lucky they only used the photos without attribution. That is typically a cardinal sin in the web world, a sin committed billions of time a day but still a cardinal sin. In my case it was just desserts.
There were other factors keeping me from accepting this request to photograph a site at that cemetery. The requestor made clear there would be no payment if I was unable to produce the goods. That meant that if I showed up and aroused the suspicions of cemetery staff and got kicked out I would have wasted 4 hours of my precious time. I also did not appreciate the tone of voice (so to speak, it was email) from this person who seemed to think I had no idea what I was talking about and had never visited a cemetery before.
That’s a lot of text in explaining just part of why I don’t do cemetery photography anymore. On the internet people expect everything to be free, including peoples’ time. That’s just not fair. I also have a fresh appreciation for the fact that it’s private property. In fact it’s private property on steroids, with every single lot and plot privately owned.
After the cemetery jaunt today it was edits. Deletions. I’ve been oversharing on overdrive lately, and I’m starting to think it’s not a good recipe for things. A potentially toxic brew. So I deleted a ton of shit, edited out needless overshares and stuff that could potentially be misinterpreted. I posted a full nude photo of myself last night, feeling wholesomely honest about it in the moment but not so much in the noonday sun. I’m not ashamed of my body but others, including future suitors, might be. I have a few potential dalliance-interests cooking right now and they don’t need to see that part of me before asking.
I get boosted again on Monday.
I have to stop writing now.