How long have you been interested in cemeteries and why?
The answer lies--as it often does--in the music. As a young teen, I was influenced by my older brother who listened a lot to the John Peel Radio Show. And in the early to mid-eigthies, that meant it was full of Post-Punk, Gothic and New Wave. And that, naturally, leads to cemeteries. When I first saw the cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," I wanted to see that angel for myself.
In the early 90s, my girlfriend (she's now my wife) introduced me to photography, and on a trip around south Europe, we visited a cemetery in Madrid. I guess that's where I caught the bug ....
What are your favorite cemeteries? (we all have more than one!)
The Camposanto Staglieno in Genoa, Italy springs immediatly in mind. Nothing comes even close. On second place comes the Cimitero Monumentale Milano. The best in Germany was--so far--the Melaten-Friedhof in Cologne.
This interview gave me the opportunity to dive again into my huge collection of cemeteries, and again I cannot help to recognize that cemeteries tend to be far more interesting and beautiful if they are Catholic. At least if you're after sculptures, which I am. I've visited 46 cemeteries since 2009 (the year I really took off) and made until today 6,843 pictures that are worthy to be kept (at least i think they are worthy). And of these 46 Cemeteries I've visited five in Italy. And made about 1,900 pictures there. That's how good they were.
What are your favorite monuments?
That is a tough one. I would distinguish between the monuments themselves and the pictures I've made. And since the list of my favorites changes all the time, I'll give you my all-time favourites that are not all-time at all but rather like a snapshot of favorites I have this time of the week .... (see pics below).
The first one is a sculpture of a naked beauty at the Staglieno Cemetery. It's an amazing piece of art.
The next one is, scuplture-wise, not very notable, but I love the photo. That's one I'm really proud of.
The third was taken in Verona, Italy. It's just unbelievably beautiful. That man is desperately clinging to his wife who is ascending to heaven.
My last selection is from Bielefeld, Germany, about half an hour from my home. I love her expression! And I'm quite proud of that photo ....
I can't tell you the name of the monuments because I mostly don't bother about facts like that. I try to make good pictures of beautiful and/or interesting monuments, regardless the owner. I'm not sure if this is unusual for a Tapophile, but then i've never met another in the wild to discuss this matter.
What is the farthest you've traveled to visit a cemetery?
I would say the Prazeres Cemetery, Lisboa, Portugal. It's about 1,400 miles from home. But it's a bit like cheating, because the main purpose of that trip was a family holiday. On second place would be Budapest, Hungary. That is about 600 miles from home.
What has been the most surprising thing you've seen in a cemetery?
The sign at the entry of the Cimitero Monumentale Torino that clearly depicts that taking pictures is strictly forbidden. That was not only surprising. It was shocking!!
What do you tell people if they think your cemetery infatuation is weird?
What's wrong with being weird? Everybody is weird. Some more, some less. I myself take pride to be bonkers.
What cemeteries are on your bucket list?
Every single cemetery in any city in Italy that has more than 30.000 residents is worth a visit. So the list is rather long. Then there's London: The famous cemeteries in London are called the "Magnificent Seven". I've seen three of them so four remain. On top on that list is a revisit to Paris. The last time i was there we only had an analog camera and not enough film.
Visit Martin's website.
I'm the founder and editor of TheCemeteryClub.com and Epitaphs Magazine. I love cemeteries and sharing the art and history of them with anyone who will listen!