Before I Leave..
The one comment I hear most often is “What’s your obsession with cemeteries?” To be honest, I don’t know. I think really, it’s more a reality of living in the part of Queens that I do rather than an obsession. Pull out a map of the Queens / Brooklyn border. See all that wonderful green? A giant park? A national recreational area? The Himalayas of New York City?
Not really. They’re cemeteries. They way it was explained to me … and I’m sure my dad will correct with if I’m wrong … is that after they passed the law that no more bodies could be buried on Manhattan Island, they floated them across the East River and through them on a wagon and headed as far as they could before things got real stinky. That’s where the cemeteries popped up.
Growing up, I rode my bike in cemeteries all the time because of the paved roads, hills, and lack of traffic. They remain largely untouched, I mean the grass is cut and they are mostly well manacured, but this how the rest of Queens would look if we weren’t mucking things up with our houses. (I mean without all the tombstones, of course.) The wildlife in our cemeteries are amazing. I’ve seen pheasants, possum, all sorts of birds, and a few hawks. One of them even had a delicious meal of a freshly caught squirrel only a few feet away from me.
Of course, the biggest attraction to me is the quiet. Cemeteries are the most peaceful place in this hustling, bustling metropolis.
There is however, that little detail of the remains of passed lives all around you and that’s where the differences between cemeteries and parks begin. I have a few rules I make myself follow when I go into one, camera in hand. The golden one, is I stay far away from actual mourners. This is their place way before it’s mine, and I would never take away the moments they have spent in some connection with a lost loved one. I don’t even shoot anything anywhere near where mourners are. I don’t like to shoot new graves either, where you can see the fresh dirt, I did this once, and I took pains to keep the image from showing that it was actually off a new grave. I also try not to shoot the names on the stones, I try not to make the person in the grave the subject of the photo. It’s unavoidable at times, I guess, but I try my best.
Of course, all cemeteries have different rules regarding photography. My favorite ones doesn’t seem to bother with me. In another one across the street, I was kicked out. I would explain my rules listed above if I was given the chance.
Then there was Bayside Cemetery.
Bayside, which is no where near the part of Queens called Bayside, was a cemetery I had heard alot about for interesting photographic opportunities. So with trusty map in had I drove over there and parked outside. I spent a few minutes in the cemetery that shared the street with Bayside and got some shots. Finally, I ventured inside the place I had heard so much about.
Things looked different, right from the start. The door to the main office was open, but no one was around. I walked past the small building inside the gate and took a hand full of shots of the mausoleum and what was around it just ahead of me. I was about to proceed and heard a sound. I turned to my right and a cemetery worker was walking along the path.
Needless to say, he told me photos were forbidden, and I would have to leave. I, of course, did what he said, and haven’t had the chance to return. I never made it more than 100 feet inside the main gate.
Here’s the only photo of Bayside Cemetery I took…
To answer the question, no I didn’t put the chair there, and no, I have no idea who did. Guess it was just one of those things I was supposed to see when I was supposed to see it.
I’m dying to see the rest of Bayside Cemetery though… someday..