Photographing Cemeteries—Where Do You Draw the Line?

Chamula Cemetery

If it hadn’t been for the freshly dug graves, I probably wouldn’t have hesitated to photograph the cemetery at San Juan Chamula in Chiapas, Mexico. But there was something about seeing the mounds of dirt, recently patted down and not yet flattened, that made me hesitate.

Chamula Cemetery, Chiapas, Mexico

After a certain amount of debate, I took the photo. As a traveler, writer and serious amateur photographer, doing so made sense. The colors were lovely, and the contrast/composition had a certain visual appeal. Also,  I felt there was a story to tell about that culture and how those who have passed away are memorialized.

But when I look at it now, I still don’t feel quite right about it.

Yet, when I photographed this cemetery in Istanbul—a very old one—I felt nothing at all. It was much older. I saw no signs of recent burial. And so, it didn’t bother me. And it still doesn’t.

Cemetery in Istanbul

When I took this third photo, in Las Lajas, Panama, I had mixed feelings. The cemetery had both old and new tombstones. It was silent except for a few birds chirping. I stayed for a few minutes, then walked away.

Las Lajas Cemetery

I’ve had this experience over the years—sometimes feeling drawn to a cemetery and feeling entirely comfortable photographing it. One some occasions, however, something felt wrong about being there in general and especially about taking photos. I would take a quick look, then leave.

Where Do You Draw the Line?

I’m wondering how other people feel about this. When it comes to photographing cemeteries, do you ever hesitate as I have? Do you ever not take a photo? And if so, what is the reason? What stops you?

Let’s take this topic by topic and see what we can come up with.

Age/Recent Burials?

Is it about how old the cemetery is and if it’s still actively being used? Does it disturb you if someone was buried there recently? If it’s been a while, then do you feel more comfortable?

The Culture and Its Views on Death, Cemeteries?

Not all cultures view death the same way. Some welcome it and don’t fear it at all. They celebrate it. Perhaps in those cultures, photographing a cemetery is not a problem? But what if that is not the case?

In the photo below, of the Cemetery of Happiness in Romania, many of the grave markers “tell the story of the life and death of the deceased,” according to the photographer. In this situation, I’d be comfortable taking photos. Would you?

Cemetery of happiness

Cemetery of Happiness in Romania

Type of Cemetery?

If it’s military or specific to something historical—perhaps a tragedy that’s been commemorated–is that OK? Perhaps this is a case where it’s important to honor those who served their country. Aside from that, it might be good for people to think and reflect on losses and mistakes of the past, hoping not to repeat them.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

How about these types of cemeteries, well-known religious ones, which are popular to photograph?  Somehow, seeing the same types of stones together–and so many of them–is compelling and may lead you to pull out your camera.


Christian Cemetery, Mt. of Olives, Israel

But what if it’s a small family cemetery on someone’s property, which appears to be private? You spot it from the site of the road and feel compelled to take photos. Should you? I think this scenario, like the “recent burial” one, is a situation in which I might be uncomfortable.

Why You’re Taking the Photo?

What role does a photographer’s intentions play in this?

Some tombstones are truly works of art; in some cases, they’ve commissioned by someone wealthy. Or they’re simply beautiful due to their design, artful carvings or a certain sort of lettering. If you view the cemetery itself and the individual tombstones from this perspective, then is it OK?

On the other hand, cemeteries are sometimes used as a backdrop for a photo shoot. I once saw a woman posing in sexy/goth clothing leaning up against a fence, with tombstones right behind her. Was the line crossed in this instance?

Rules and/or Signs at the Gate?

Maybe the appropriateness of cemetery photos has to do with that particular cemetery’s rules. If you’re not supposed to/allowed to photograph it, then it’s straightforward–you simply don’t. Some travelers/photographers, however, might object to this.

Are you one of them? Would you sneak a shot anyway?

Preserving Memories/Paying Respect?

Is there another angle from which this can be viewed? Are you, on some level, helping preserve the memory of the deceased person? And perhaps the surviving family members would want this on some level?

And what if you took a moment of silence to pay your respects before photographing an individual tombstone, would this change the dynamic of this sort of photography?

Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, Kilkenny, IE

Your Thoughts/Experiences?

What do you think?

Do you believe that photographing cemeteries is appropriate no matter what? Or at there instances where you would put your camera down and walk away? Whatever your views, feel free to share them so that we can have have discussion about this and learn from each other.

If you’ve found this post interesting/useful, then check out one I did last year on the ethics and morals of travel photography in general. The discussion was a fascinating one.

what i took to be a Buddhist cemetary

Buddhist Cemetery, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Link Love

Here are some links that may be of interest:

Tips for Taking Photos in a Cemetery

One Cemetery’s Rules

Flickr Discussion

Photo Credits:

The first three photos were taken by me; the rest were borrowed via Creative Commons. Click on the individual photos to be taken to the photographer’s Flickr page.


81 Responses to Photographing Cemeteries—Where Do You Draw the Line?
  1. Janet
    May 2, 2012 | 8:59 am

    What a great post, Lisa.

    For me “respect for the dead” is really about respect for the living who have buried their dead. This question feels so much about how a society views death and the “afterlife”. In all reality, there’s not a shred of the person left under the earth, regardless of how recently the bones were covered.

    Throughout history, most cultures have held strong beliefs/practices regarding the dead. Some held such strong and detailed views they buried food, riches and, indeed, other people to serve them, in huge pyramids. The Apache don’t even speak of the dead so as not to disturb their spirits. And in between these extremes, there is vast range of tradition and belief.

    Why do we take photos? Such a good question! I often feel like photographing my experiences takes me out of the now, so I can preserve them for later enjoyment. Kind of like how burial sites are there to honor and remember our beloved dead. :-)

    A dear friend who was a gifted photographer once told me, when we were out at a stunning site without a camera, “just take a picture in your mind”. Perhaps there are places where that is the best idea.

    • CB Driver
      May 2, 2012 | 9:23 pm

      Hi, Janet. I’m glad you found this post an interesting read. Thanks for the thoughtful and intelligent response, too. Makes sense that it’s about respecting “the living who buried their dead.” I hear what you’re saying about the range of traditions and beliefs and that’s important to consider. Also, where we are when these things come up. There’s what we personally believe, but then there’s what those of a given culture believe. I think that if they don’t want photos taken of their burial sites–and make it clear–then it’s up to us to respect that (regardless of our thoughts re: death, etc.)

      As for getting out of the moment when taking photos, I know exactly what you mean. Sounds like a good idea for another post!

      Thanks for sharing that link, btw…

  2. Jeruen
    May 2, 2012 | 9:51 am

    Since I don’t believe in the afterlife, I don’t hesitate taking photographs of cemeteries. For me, it is purely an anthropological experience: dealing with death is a normal part of human life, and I am interested in how different cultures do it. I guess my latest cemetery experience was when I was in Santiago, Chile. The Cementerio General preserved the social distinctions that were in place in the living world.

    Anyway, the only time when I would hesitate taking a photo is when the loved ones are present. I would not want to take a photo of a burial happening, especially when I do not know the family. That feels like stealing private moments from someone else, and I’d rather not offend other people, especially at a moment of sadness.
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    • CB Driver
      May 2, 2012 | 9:19 pm

      Hi, Jeruen. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your views/perspective and the link. Always interesting!
      I agree re: the idea of “stealing” the family’s private moments. Would be wrong.

  3. Talon
    May 2, 2012 | 11:12 am

    The only time I wouldn’t take a cemetery photo is if it would be inappropriate culturally. Otherwise it’s like any other place to me. I love visiting cemeteries because of the insight you get into the culture and never hesitate to take photos (again, as long as it isn’t prohibited culturally or legally).

    I do, however, tend to avoid taking photos of people who are obviously mourning at a site. If I were a better photojournalist I’d probably go ahead and do it anyway, but it just feels to invasive during such a special time.
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    • CB Driver
      May 2, 2012 | 9:17 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Talon. I also think it’s important to respect a local culture and their rules about such things. To me, it’s no different than visiting a place like Chamula, where you’re not allowed to photograph the people individually and especially inside the church. Having said this, there are many cemeteries that do seem OK to photograph. As for taking a photo of someone mourning, I would not do that either.

  4. Dyanne@TravelnLass
    May 2, 2012 | 11:55 am

    I too think of death and cemeteries as simply the natural order of things, and have taken many pics of interesting cemeteries in my travels (indeed Lisa, I believe I have one from that same cemetery as yours in Panama!)

    But like Jereun and Talon, I’d not take photos when mourners are near – out of simple respect for their loss.
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    • CB Driver
      May 2, 2012 | 9:15 pm

      Hi, Dyanne. Thanks for sharing–appreciate it. Always like to hear your perspective. I’m with you re: mourners being nearby. I think it would be wrong to take photos in that case.

  5. E H Wrigley
    May 2, 2012 | 12:05 pm

    Yes, an very interesting question.

    I can see why you hesitated, because out of all your photo examples, that shot would have had me wondering too.

    Whilst travelling (as a tourist)in the Swat Valley in Pakistan I had a similar dilemma, coming across some unusual graves with flags flying over them, most unusual from our experience until then in Pakistan.

    I did also take a photograph, but the fact that I felt uncomfortable doing so, is probably why I can still remember the moment so well over 15 years later. I’m sure I must have photographed many other gravestones in the intervening 15 years but have to think back to what they were, so obviously I felt more comfortable with them, and on reflection it is probably an age thing.

    The flags in the photograph I took, and the new soil in your photo both speak of current grief rather, perhaps, than historical interest?

    • CB Driver
      May 2, 2012 | 9:15 pm

      Hi, E.H. Thanks for reading this piece–and for relating to it and sharing your story. Interesting that you had a similar experience re: feeling uncomfortable at a certain cemetery. I would say you’re right that it’s about the current grief issue more than anything–for me, anyway. Thanks for helping me understand via your take on it.

  6. Laura
    May 2, 2012 | 12:36 pm

    The only situation where I’ve had to take photos have been in cataloguing my family tree with my granddad – we went to the cemetery where his parents, grandparents, and some great-relatives are buried and I took photos to try to make the names and dates clearer and for records. They were my family, despite the fact that I don’t remember the ones I did meet.
    Thinking about it, I wouldn’t mind if someone else wanted to take pictures in the cemetery – even after my granddad (who is the most important person in the world to me) is buried there.

    I guess not being religious, but being brought up as CofE I consider the physical side of things to be over when you die…what’s left is a representation – it’s a lot like taking a photo of someone’s birth certificate…not the same as taking a photo of someone’s death at all.

    That said, there was a grave of a old lady, a young couple and two children that had died in a car crash and I couldn’t even bear to be near that…

    • CB Driver
      May 2, 2012 | 9:12 pm

      Hi, Laura. Thanks for sharing your experience and perspective on this subject. Very interesting! In many of the comments, it seems that a lot of this has to do with what a person believes about death, etc.

      And that last situation sounds intense. I would have had to step away, too.

  7. Jeremy Branham
    May 2, 2012 | 1:11 pm

    I can honestly say I’ve never even thought about this. I haven’t taken a lot of photos of cemeteries but those I have I didn’t give any thought to it. Two of the more famous cemeteries, Pere Lachaise in Paris and those in Normandy, are always photographed. I’ve taken a few here and there and I would draw the line at taking one with anyone there who is visiting a grave. But if there are no people around, I just snap the photo.
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    • CB Driver
      May 2, 2012 | 9:09 pm

      What you’re saying makes sense, Jeremy–about not taking a photo with–or of–someone someone visiting a grave. Makes sense to me. Unless perhaps you’re a photojournalist and something major just happened and it’s part of a story–and the person is OK with it.

  8. Amanda
    May 2, 2012 | 8:58 pm

    Interesting post, Lisa!

    I haven’t taken a ton of photos in cemeteries, but generally I don’t see anything wrong with it. Cemeteries can be great places to reflect, and sometimes those reflections can be captured quite well in photos.

    I think the only time I would hesitate to take a photo would be if a burial was going on, or if someone was visiting a grave nearby. Those are private moments, and I would feel uncomfortable photographing them.
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    • CB Driver
      May 2, 2012 | 9:05 pm

      Hi, Amanda. Thank you! True about cemeteries being good for reflection, etc. I agree with you re: a burial taking place. I don’t think I would that that–unless it was in a culture where they celebrate death. Otherwise, no way.

  9. Kevin aka EyeTravelSolo
    May 2, 2012 | 9:04 pm

    I wonder if you would have taken the pic of the fresh graves if there were people around. I don’t think I would.

    Onn historical sites I think it is okay, people around or not. They understand why you are doing it.

    A family cemetary i would probably pass on, just seems like an invasion of privacy and no real reason to post it with no story.

    Restrictions / Rules on photographs of a cemetary. Hmmm…I guess that would be a judgement call on my part depending on the site. I tend to break rules I don’t make. :)
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    • CB Driver
      May 2, 2012 | 9:26 pm

      Hey, Kevin. I absolutely would not have taken the photo if there were people visiting those freshly dug graves. Glad you mentioned that. Somehow I feel better about that shot now.
      So you’d pass on the family cemetery? Interesting. I probably would, too, but might–only might–be tempted if it seemed like an artistic photo. But chances are, it wouldn’t feel right and I’d walk away.

      Re: the rule breaking…I hear you. :)

      • Kevin aka EyeTravelSolo
        May 3, 2012 | 9:09 am

        What about a Pet Cemetary? Make Stephen King proud. :)
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        • CB Driver
          May 3, 2012 | 9:43 am

          Funny that you should mention that. I had a photo of one. Didn’t realize what it was at first. I then took it out, thinking it was slightly off topic. In any case, they are fascinating, too.

  10. Erica
    May 3, 2012 | 8:56 am

    This post just made me think of how many cemeteries/graves I’ve taken pictures of in the last couple months… it’s not something that’s usually actively in my mind, but to think of it, I’ve taken quite a few.

    I think that are hauntingly beautiful and the purpose of having a headstone is to state the person’s name so they are not forgotten. Thus, I personally show the same amount of respect I do when photographing the inside of a church and make sure that I’m only taking photos that will do it justice.

    I always bow and excuse myself with Japanese cemeteries and graves. I’ve never put much thought into it, but it just feels right when I’m there.

    In the end, I feel like it’s something that you have to decide on the spot. :)
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    • CB Driver
      May 3, 2012 | 9:49 am

      Hi, Erica. “Hauntingly beautiful” is a great way to describe cemeteries. There’s a certain something about them that comes through in the photos and is hard to pass up if you enjoy travel photography. I like the fact that you showed the sort of respect there that you would in a church. Re: the Japanese cemeteries/graves, that makes a lot of sense. Sounds like your approach is a sensible and respectful one.

      • Erica
        May 5, 2012 | 12:55 pm

        Thank you!

        And thanks for bringing this up. I think it’s a great issue to address.
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        • CB Driver
          May 6, 2012 | 8:03 am

          Thanks, Erica. I’m glad it made you and others think. Always nice to dig a little deeper (please excuse the unintentional pun).

  11. Katie
    May 3, 2012 | 8:58 am

    Interesting post. I am often drawn to cemeteries when I travel but I can’t say I have often thought about whether or not I should take pictures. Many of the cemeteries I have visited are now promoted to some extent as tourist sites, even charging admission, so in those cases I don’t think twice – although I do feel slightly weird while I am there snapping away and there are people around visiting gravesites of family members/friends.

    Recently at a cemetery in Armenia, I actually came upon a funeral procession. I definitely drew the line there, not taking any photos of the procession or anything around it as I didn’t even want to give the appearance that I might be taking pictures of the mourners.
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    • CB Driver
      May 3, 2012 | 9:47 am

      Hi, Katie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I, too, have not thought twice when at the more touristic cemeteries. True–they are promoted and it doesn’t seem wrong in any way to shoot photos there. Glad to hear that you put the camera down when the funeral procession passed by. I would have done the same. A person’s/family’s pain should be personal–definitely.

  12. Ruth
    May 3, 2012 | 11:31 pm

    I am not too drawn to cementeries. I have visited some like the Recoleta one in Buenos Aires. But that was to visit Eva Peron’s burial place. Plus, the place is more of a necropolis full of mausoleums.

    I would definetly not photograph people vising the tombs, funeral processions or burial ceremonies. I think I would not photographs tombs of people deceased in recent years. With all the technology we have, I don’t know if that is advisable.

    Very interesting topic.
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    • CB Driver
      May 4, 2012 | 7:24 pm

      Hi, Ruth. Thanks for joining the discussion.

      Cool that you visited Eva Peron’s burial place. I would definitely do the same if I went to BA. Re: the recent burial thing, it sounds like you share my feelings about taking photos in those cases. There’s something about that which feels wrong to me. I think it’s because the pain and grief for the survivors is too recent. Of course, in some cultures–based on what I’ve been reading in the comments–that would not be the case…

  13. Naomi
    May 4, 2012 | 9:16 am

    good friends of mine had an outdoor wedding on a cliff top promontory with awesome ocean views. just so happened to also be a cemetery. The home sewn outfits were all purple gothic so the wedding photos were amazing! Totally fitted the setting. The oldies (parents) weren’t amused by the setting but the rest of us were like pigs in mud taking happy snaps of the couple draped over old headstones.
    I don’t think I’d feel comfortable taking photos of a funeral back home, but then I’ve been to funerals in places like Toraja in Indonesia where its a tourist attraction, and I’ve even taken photos of the corpse!!
    Good topic Lisa, made me think….
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    • CB Driver
      May 4, 2012 | 7:20 pm

      Hi, Naomi. Glad this post was thought-provoking. Cool! And thanks for sharing your ideas/perspective.

      Wow re: photographing a corpse…I almost can’t imagine it. But I’ve heard about certain parts of Indonesia where there’s an actual “funeral season” and that it’s sometimes geared to tourists. In that case, it seems anything goes.

  14. Heathers Harmony
    May 4, 2012 | 1:28 pm

    This is a very interesting post to me because visiting local cemeteries when I’m traveling is one of my absolute favorite things to do. They can tell a lot about the culture and its people. I haven’t experienced any sort of feeling that I shouldn’t take a picture yet although after reading this post maybe I will be more sensitive to those feelings.

    I don’t view death as a negative event, I think a life lived should be celebrated and in its own respect I think visiting (and photographing) grave sites and cemeteries is a way to share in someones story who can’t share it for themself anymore.

    Interesting insights, thank you for writing this article!
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    • CB Driver
      May 4, 2012 | 7:18 pm

      Hi, Heather. Thanks for contributing to the discussion! So true that cemeteries reveal a lot about a culture. And I do think that a certain amount of this–how one feels re: photographing cemeteries–has to do with one’s one feelings about death. Perhaps it is a way to share a story for someone who no longer can…

  15. Tom Mazur
    May 4, 2012 | 4:16 pm

    I would say that if it is a public cemetery one can shoot all the pictures they choose. However, I also believe that a good photographer will always be cognizant of respect. Even though a person is no longer around to sign a photo release, certainly the name is still alive. So, not only revere the dead but be kind to those who are lingering on.

    • CB Driver
      May 4, 2012 | 7:15 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Tom. Great points!

  16. Alouise
    May 5, 2012 | 12:36 am

    I find cemeteries fascinating, but I definitely think you need to be respectful when taking photos in a cemetery. I was wandering around a little village in Austria and came across a pretty cemetery. I didn’t take any pictures because there were other people there and it just didn’t feel right.
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    • CB Driver
      May 6, 2012 | 8:04 am

      Alouise–I think that what you did in that case in Austria was right. I would have done the same. Perhaps they were the family and maybe the burial was recent. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Erik
    May 6, 2012 | 2:39 am

    It is sensitive, but so many places are ‘defined’ by the way they bury their dead. There is a grim beauty in the way people memorialize their loved ones, and cemeteries are a testament to that.
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    • CB Driver
      May 6, 2012 | 8:02 am

      Thanks, Erik. True–it is sensitive and how people are buried in cultures adds to the challenges of this dilemma (if you’re one who hesitates). I like the phrase “grim beauty”; that’s a perfect way to describe it.

  18. Deana Cage
    May 6, 2012 | 6:30 am

    Cool and creepy pictures! I’m still a bit scared of cemeteries!

  19. Michael Hodson
    May 6, 2012 | 6:44 am

    I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this post, but photos in cemeteries don’t bother me in the least. They are public spaces. I have never had a second thought about it and doubt I ever will. I love cemeteries — so oddly peaceful. But taking photos in there seems totally and completely fine to me. Perhaps not during an actual burial ceremony, but just of the graves and headstones? Totally fine in my book.
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    • CB Driver
      May 6, 2012 | 8:00 am

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Michael. I think what you’re saying is the consensus for the most part; shooting cemetery is not a problem, except for when people are being buried. Some hold back in a few other cases (like me with the recent burials), but other than that, it sounds like most want to respect the private moments of the surviving family members.

  20. Tash
    May 7, 2012 | 1:19 am

    Ohh, such a thought provoking post! You are so right – fresh burial ground seems like a no no….but then war cemeteries and older ones are fascinating and totally pull out the photographer in me… And then, temples or mourning rituals in another culture always capture my attention too….
    From a sociology perspective, I love the idea of understanding how people from around the world commemorate their dead….but you are right – what is respectful and what is not? And how would we know, without crossing the line first.
    I guess, like everything with travelling, it’s about being a respectful guest is other people’s worlds, and behaving ans you would want someone behaving when visiting your world….
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    • CB Driver
      May 7, 2012 | 8:16 am

      Hi, Tash. Glad you got something form this post! It sounds like we’re really on the same page about this–and that’s nice to know.

      As far as the sociological side of things–good point re: how we would know. I suppose we could try to learn about it in advance since it varies from country to country, but much of it will occur in the moment, too. PS: Someone recently told me that there’s a “burial season” in one or more parts of Indonesia and that tourists are allowed and encouraged to take photos. Never imagined such a thing.

      For now, I think I’ll do a little research in advance and may just stick to what I’ve been doing–taking the photos most of the time and then walking away if it doesn’t feel right.

  21. John Kellerman
    May 8, 2012 | 1:04 pm

    I don’t see any harm in taking photographs at the cemeteries, unless there you have your own spiritual beliefs that hinders you from doing so.
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    • CB Driver
      May 12, 2012 | 7:27 pm

      Thanks, John. That makes sense to me.

  22. cmichaelsny
    May 8, 2012 | 11:31 pm

    Respect is important when photographing cemeteries. Remember that families are there along with their monuments. But you can take stunning photographs.

  23. Linda
    May 10, 2012 | 7:09 am

    Here on Tenerife cemeteries are usually those which are like shelves in a wall, and they are almost always calm and beautiful places, full of flowers, either in the gardens or in the individual graves. I would only hesitate if I though that I was intruding on someone’s privacy, but my feeling is that they are made this way for us to know the dead are still with us, and they are very much a celebration of life.

    Oddly, I was thinking of a similar post – but I’ll rethink it now! There is a graveyard near Santa Cruz which seems to be abandoned, although there is the odd bunch of flowers. Your first photo reminds me of it. It’s kind of random and disorganized, unlike the walls. It fascinates me, but walking near their with one of my sons last year he hated that I was taking snaps.

    The one time I’ve hesitated on this topic wasn’t in a graveyard, but in a museum. Photos were allowed, and I fully intended to take them of mummified bodies of this island’s original inhabitants, so dead hundreds of years, but I just couldn’t do it. Still thinking of going back. In my head it’s a celebration of their ancient culture, but in my heart there are doubts.
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    • CB Driver
      May 12, 2012 | 7:26 pm

      Hola, Linda. Thanks for joining the discussion. Sounds like the cemeteries are lovely there in Tenerife; I could see why you’d want to photograph them. I would have hesitated re: taking the photos of the mummified bodies. They’re sort of eerie, aren’t they…

      Perhaps you could do a post that’s a photo essay on cemeteries you’ve visited? If so, feel free to post it here so others can check it out. Thanks!

  24. Neal
    May 11, 2012 | 2:55 am

    I think that you touch on something rather interesting. Why are you taking the picture? Personally I’m fairly pragmatic in my approach. I believe photographs reflect on the photographer more often than the subject. In travel you often feel most alive, present in the moment it seems to me to recognize we only come this way once. Cemetaries, burial grounds are testament to the fleeting nature of existence. Something coexists here our personal recognition of our own passage and often a rather soulful connection is made between the photographer and their subject. Think about it… why are you taking the picture?

    • CB Driver
      May 12, 2012 | 7:22 pm

      Neal–thanks for what you said and the questions you posed. It’s all really powerful and relevant as you’ve gotten me to think about the present moment, which is what it–everything–is really all about. You’ve actually helped me understand what these types of photos actually represent.

      Good point re: the photograph being about the photographer mostly. I’ll bet that’s part of why I’m uncomfortable about the recent burials; perhaps it makes me think about my mortality and that of the people I care about more than an older grave. I totally agree with you re: often feeling most alive during travel. And this sort of thing intensifies it.

  25. Elijah Justyn
    May 11, 2012 | 3:42 pm

    Very detailed post about photography at cemeteries. I think this post can increase the knowledge about the various types of cemeteries on various areas of the world.

  26. Wandergirl
    May 11, 2012 | 4:16 pm

    Wow – a really great post. I’d honestly never really thought about it before. But now that I read this, I do remember being in Montmartre Cemetery. As it was famous and had a great deal of old graves, I didn’t have a problem with most of them.

    But then I saw the grave of a child, just recently placed there. It really impacted me. It was like I suddenly realised Paris isn’t just a fantasy – real people live (and die) here. I did take a picture because it was kind of a turning point in my travels; but I haven’t shared it publicly. I hadn’t quite pinpointed why I felt uncomfortable with this photo, and honestly hadn’t really thought about it, until reaading this.

    I think, though, in general, people desire this kind of burial because they want some sort of public memory of their lives. If your photographs are respecting that, I think it’s okay. But it’s definitely a grey area that I’m sure not many really interrogate. Thanks for posting this!
    Wandergirl recently posted..READ THIS FIRST: Welcome to Wanderlustkind!My Profile

    • CB Driver
      May 12, 2012 | 7:18 pm

      Hi, Wandergirl. Thanks so much for joining the discussion. What you’ve said is really powerful; it makes sense that seeing what you saw showed you the reality of life and that the flip side of it is death. Thanks for sharing that you felt uncomfortable, too. I would have felt the same. Like you, I do feel there are some gray areas and this–the recentness of someone’s burial–definitely strikes a chord of discomfort with me.

  27. […] This post addresses a tricky subject, one on which I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.Photographing Cemeteries—Where Do You Draw the Line?4. Bacon is MagicMolokai has intrigued me since I read Michener’s epic tome […]

  28. Stephanie - The Travel Chica
    May 12, 2012 | 3:43 pm

    I have never felt anything wrong about photographing cemeteries. I always inquire where the cemetery is when I arrive in a new place because I think they are interesting, peaceful places. I never photograph people visiting their loved ones and try to be discreet, only shooting in areas where people are not visiting.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Foto of the Week from … Buenos Aires: Hidden WallsMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      May 12, 2012 | 7:14 pm

      Hi, Stephanie. Thanks for sharing your perspective and ideas about this. Sounds reasonable to me.

  29. Helene
    May 14, 2012 | 9:46 am

    I love visiting cemeteries, they are wonderful repositories of history. The taking of photos for me has several levels;
    if it’s and old historical cemetery I have no problem in taking photos, however if it is a ‘still used’ cemetery then I firstly find out (if possible)if there are any rules about photos and secondly tune into my own feelings. Quite often our gut feelings are correct and if it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t, so if it doesn’t feel right to me – I don’t, I firmly believe in not only leaving the physical area I have visited clean but also the energetic field respect is the key word. Great topic of conversation and terrific responses from everyone, thanks.

    • CB Driver
      May 14, 2012 | 10:25 am

      Hi, Helene. Thanks for joining the discussion! I think it’s great that you’re more careful when it’s a cemetery that’s still being used and that you follow your gut feelings about this. Interesting about the idea of the energetic field, too. I can relate to that, too. Great to hear your thoughts!

  30. Nora Coletti
    May 14, 2012 | 9:50 am

    Once again you took my breath away!!! Cemetery pictures really? I love it… I like your writting and your pictures are awesome!!!!!

  31. Wes Nations
    May 14, 2012 | 12:03 pm

    OK, this is just weird — I’m editing my photos from a Chiapas graveyard just as I saw your post appear on FB. And the shots look exactly like your first photo. [insert Twilight Zone theme music here]
    Wes Nations recently posted..Photo of the Week: A Weathered Wall in San Cristobal, MexicoMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      May 14, 2012 | 2:03 pm

      Hey, Wes. That IS weird…. That’s some cemetery, isn’t it? Did you see any fresh mounds of not-yet-flattened dirt like I did? (I hear the Twilight Zone theme music now…)

  32. Valerie
    May 20, 2012 | 10:28 am

    I love photographing cemetaries, and I honestly have very few boundaries there. I photograph mostly ghost town cemetaries, which I actually feel like I *need* to do to preserve whatever is left of it. As for active cemetaries, I love taking photos of old or very elaborate tombstones, but I would never photograph a recent burial unless it was someone I knew. A “no photography” sign would absolutely stop me, but a cultural taboo would only stop me if I had witnesses… How else would we share this culture with others?

    • CB Driver
      May 22, 2012 | 10:04 pm

      Hi, Valerie. Interesting re: ‘ghost town’ cemeteries… I also like the very old and/or elaborate tombstones. And I would respect the rules if posted, as you mentioned.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  33. Jane Jeanor
    May 24, 2012 | 9:17 pm

    I have never thought of taking pictures of a cemetery. For me, the experience may not be appealing especially when taking pictures of people I had never met in life. If it were people close to me, it would be better.
    Jane Jeanor recently posted..Amazon booksMy Profile

  34. Gray
    May 31, 2012 | 1:26 pm

    Huh. Good question! I’ve never hesitated taking photos at a cemetery, but I would definitely not do it if I came across a graveside service or someone obviously mourning a lost loved one. That would be intrusive. So I’d leave people out of the picture. Otherwise, I don’t see any reason not to. I would bet lots of genealogists go through cemeteries snapping pictures of old headstones looking for long-lost relatives. Not much difference between that and taking a photo for an artistic reason.
    Gray recently posted..Battling the Crowds at the Trevi FountainMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      June 5, 2012 | 3:45 am

      Hi, Gray. That makes sense to me…

  35. […] instance, Lisa over at recently posted this.  Photographing Cemetaries – Where do you draw the line?  I cheerfully tweeted that I had no […]

  36. Hilarye
    July 2, 2012 | 11:49 am

    You have made some great points about photographing cemeteries. This is one of my husband’s favorite things to photograph because they tell stories. I think as long as you aren’t photographing a funeral or a casket and are being respectful it’s fine and a great way to tribute life and death!
    Hilarye recently posted..Why I Don’t Have A Bucket ListMy Profile

  37. […] was a recent article on Chicky Bus about whether photographing cemeteries was appropriate, and where the line is for what is and […]

  38. […] Question was taken from, the author writes and comments about whether it is good or bad to photograph cemeteries. In some […]

  39. […] Chickybus’s website: […]

  40. […] the website, an author wrote about whether or not it is okay to tkae photos in cemeteries. Below, I responded […]

  41. […] this activity we were asked to go visit the website and choose a question that the photographer asked about graveyards and rewrite it. I chose If You […]

  42. […] Question from: […]

  43. Cemeteries | Learning Blog
    October 9, 2012 | 3:01 am

    […] In English class we went to a website about photographing cemeteries. It talked about whether it is right or wrong or what kind of cemetery you can photograph: […]

  44. Cemeteries – Privacy | My Learning Blog
    January 8, 2013 | 4:04 pm

    […] was reading about cemeteries on this website … on this website it was talking about when its ok to take a photo of a Cemetery the this questiong […]

  45. Ernie
    November 8, 2014 | 6:16 pm

    I was wondering if people take pictures of themselves next to a famous tombstone like Elvis’ or some other famous person? Is turning their gravesite into a tourist trap and photo op respectful?

    • CB Driver
      November 16, 2014 | 10:56 pm

      Good question, Ernie–and I think the answer is yes. People are doing that now. Is it disrespectful? Great question, too. What do you think? Does it depend? And if so, what does it depend on?

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