The following text and photos are excerpted from The Lake View Cemetery: Photographs from Cleveland’s Historic Landmark, by Barney Taxel, with Laura Taxel (Ringtaw Books/The University of Akron Press, 2014).
Excerpt from the photographer’s introduction:
Lake View has been an endlessly evocative and fertile area of exploration. Every season and time of day was visually rich and it was a surprise to realize that its essence is a celebration of life, change, and renewal, quite different from the usual associations people have with cemeteries. Working there was a constant process of discovery that led me to new vistas, both of the landscape itself and my own inner world. This collection of images is a kind of meditation on how I see and the fundamental questions that preoccupy me: who am I and what is my purpose?
There is no other book about the Lake View Cemetery like this one. I have embraced the essential elements that define it — the sense of history and humanity, art and architecture, horticulture and topography. But I haven’t organized the material in the obvious ways. Instead I sought to put together a visual symphony in four parts: The Vision, The Place, The Heart, and The Journey. Each section, like a musical movement, has a theme, but also echoes and repeats elements from the others. Together they form something that is more than just a collection of chapters and ideas, and offer a deeply personal interpretation of my experience and the topics that interest me: creativity, craftsmanship, light, metaphor and abstraction, scale, geometry, color, space and time.
Barney Taxel, 2014
Excerpts from the text by Laura Taxel:
The roster of residents [of Lake View] does indeed read like the guest list to the most exclusive party in town. And the prestige of the place has only increased as the roll call of “inhabitants” expanded to include such luminaries as President James A. Garfield, John D. Rockefeller, Marcus Hanna, senator and political power broker, and John Hay, a former secretary of state and ambassador to England. But in the early years, trustees fixed the price of lots much lower than the standard at the time to make it possible for individuals of lesser means to also be buried there. As a result the rich, the renowned, and the accomplished keep company with those who functioned far from the public eye, mostly forgotten men and women whose biographies will likely never be written.
This stone city is its own destination, an opportunity to view one of America’s finest collections of Victorian funerary art, some designed by local talent and much of it executed by immigrant craftsmen who settled nearby in the neighborhood that came to be called Little Italy. Many of those who turned blocks of stone into urns, pillars, and blossom-etched slabs worked for Joseph Carabelli. The original shop opened in 1880 on Euclid Avenue, across the street from the cemetery entrance. His company had a hand in the monuments built for Jeptha Wade, Marcus Hanna, John Hay, Samuel Mather, Charles Brush, Solomon Severance, Charles Otis, James Garfield, and the seventy-foot obelisk for the Rockefeller family.
The Lake View Cemetery is a repository of history, writ large and small, honoring the past by preserving it. It is a kind of library, an archive of lives — long, full ones and others that were over much too soon. They are brought back, all of them again and again, every time someone comes, pauses to reminisce or read the message on a marker. Each bunch of flowers, potted plant, wreath or personal memento left behind says “You are gone but I am here, you are yesterday but this is my today, and while I live, you are not forgotten.”
The juxtaposition of those at everlasting rest with the dynamic energy of living can be profound and profoundly moving. Providing such natural and unmediated encounters with mortality is an important and necessary role, often unremarked, of burial grounds. Filled with memento mori — a Latin phrase that translates remember you will die, the words refer to the objects and symbols that serve as reminders of this reality — Lake View, like every cemetery, communicates that our time is limited. No matter who we are or what we do, the end will be the same. It’s not a bad thing to consider, a gift of awareness that can bring a brief sense of clarity, a fleeting sweetness to each inhale and exhale, an intensity of sensation and impression. The experience is a wake-up call, conscious or submerged. It may come as a startling alarm or a barely heard whisper, a passing thought or a deeply moving feeling.
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