Woodlawn cemetery celebrated its 150th anniversary in the Fall of 2014. In 2012, I was commissioned to produce high-resolution photographs that would be published in a catalog, the centerpiece of an exhibition, as well as presented in slideshow format. These images would be shot over a four-season period, including interior photographs of the Mausoleums and shots of signed Tiffany-stained glass windows.
Cemeteries have always offered creative visual possibilities for photographers. Woodlawn, with its long history and landmarked sculptures and architecture, was no exception. I was enthusiastic about the immense opportunities and challenges that lay ahead.
One of the top priorities on the extensive ‘shoot list’ was to stake out several positions where I would return to over the course of the next year, in order to photograph a series of pin-registered panoramic views throughout all four seasons from exactly the same camera position. One location, specifically, was a scenic view of the cemetery by the lake with plenty of trees that would change significantly throughout the seasons. I took exact measurements from one tree, along with GPS coordinates, which became my marker. These pan shots can be seen under ‘Other Work’ on my website.
Woodlawn boasts an amazing collection of stained glass windows. The only way to capture their saturated colors is from inside the Mausoleum with the door closed, allowing as little light as possible to reflect off the inside face of the window. The ‘image making light’ was predominantly transmitted illumination coming through the window from outside. With the help of a photo assistant and a set of walkie-talkies, we communicated with each other as I remained locked inside and shot a series of exposures tethered to a laptop. Concurrently, my assistant would move the generator-powered lights and sometimes battery LEDs to various parts of the window through a soft diffuser. We split up every window into a grid format, each grid having its own designated letter. I would communicate with my assistant where I needed the light moved and then shoot a series of pin-registered shots, which I later processed into one perfectly lit window.
Up until the now, these incredibly delicate and complex works of art were hidden behind heavy locked cast iron doors and out of sight. It is a wonderful tribute to the talented artists to have their decorative art available to be freely viewed and studied for the first time since their initial installation.
These images can also be viewed under ‘Other Work’.