Sacred to the Memory: Photographs by Robert Reinhardt
November 7, 2008 - February 6, 2009
Rochelle and Irwin A. Lowenfeld Conference and Exhibition Hall
Joan and Donald E. Axinn Library, 10th floor
Presented in conjunction with the Third Annual LGBT Symposium: Queer Iconography sponsored by the LGBT Studies Program and the Hofstra Cultural Center
November 7 and 8, 2008
The photographs in this exhibition represent the past five years of exploring “sacred grounds” in the cemeteries of Scotland, notably the area in and around Edinburgh. These sites are extremely rich in visual treasure. From the first time I set foot in Warriston Cemetery, I knew I had stumbled upon a subject that spoke to me on many different levels. Each site possesses a unique slice of the history, culture, religion, art and architecture of the time period in which it was created. Today, several of the sites are sealed up and most are in a shameful state of disrepair with nature rapidly reclaiming the landscape. Trees and shrubs, once carefully manicured, now tower over and envelop the beautifully carved tombstones. Celtic crosses and majestic marble angels are hostage to vines and weeds that strangle and conceal them from the view of the passerby.
My first summer visiting the many cemeteries of Edinburgh was spent familiarizing myself with the layout of the sites. Most of the original landscape design has been lost under plantings grown wild over the years. It is the careful observer that begins to discover the delicate objects that lie hidden amidst the neglect of the past few decades. My journey of the past few years has led me to many wonderful visual discoveries, whether it is a carefully sculpted bronze medallion inlaid into a granite Celtic cross or a delicate angel perched atop a column. All are now subject to the ravages of time. The rich patinas and the weather worn surfaces magnetically draw me in as I return each year.
The images that I chose to include in this exhibition document a specific theme. They bring to life a strength that lives on in these objects. They seem almost indifferent to the elements that continue to wear at their surfaces and challenge their structural integrity. At the same time, nature is painting an entirely new palette in which they exist. It is the collision and contrast of that ongoing confrontation that draws me into these sites year after year. I feel that after four years of documenting these cemeteries my camera has recorded a small slice of Edinburgh’s history on digital files. I have dedicated myself to preserving those memories and voices from the past to be handed on for others to share into the future.