Trinity Cemetery, Apr 2010 – 11

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Image by Ed Yourdon
Note: this photo was published as an illustration in an undated (May 2010) Everyblock New York City blog, titled "700-799 block of Riverside Drive." It was also published in an Oct 6, 2010 blog titled "The Only Way To Become A Wealthy Is Through The Wealthy Affiliate University." And it was published in an undated (early Jan 2011) blog titled "Affiliate Marketing: Why Train at Wealthy Affiliates?" It was also published in a Mar 23, 2011 Learn 2 Earn Online blog, with the same caption and detailed notes that I had written on this Flickr page.

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Most of my photos focus on the rich, vibrant life that surrounds me here in New York City and various other parts of the world to which I’m lucky enough to travel. But death is part of our overall experience, too, and while it’s often hidden away in crowded cities like New York, it’s still here. I decided to acknowledge that a few days ago, by paying a visit to a local cemetery … I don’t really know what motivated the visit, other than perhaps the silence and peacefulness that I felt when visiting Arlington National Cemetery in Washington a couple of weeks ago.

In any case, I decided to visit Trinity Cemetery — not the one down on Wall Street & Broadway, but the one up at 153rd Street, between Broadway and Riverside Drive. It’s affiliated with the downtown Trinity Church, but it was established in 1842 when the church began running out of space in its downtown burial ground. Indeed, it is the only active cemetery in Manhattan at this point. In addition, the highest hill-point of the cemetery, right at the intersection of Broadway and 153rd street, was the scene of heavy fighting on November 16, 1776 when Fort Washington and its 3,000 soldiers fell to a larger army of 8,000 soldiers under Britain’s General William Howe.

The older downtown cemetery was the final resting place of a number of famous and historical figures, including Alexander Hamilton, generals, captains, Congressmen, signers of the Declaration of Independence, and delegates to the Continental Congress. In the uptown cemetery that I visited, there are the graves of more generals and Congressmen, as well as several members of the illustrious Astor family, and a prostitute who later became the wealthiest woman in America and wife of Aaron Burr (Eliza Jumel, in case you care), and several former Mayors of New York City. Indeed, I was told by the Cemetery Manager, when I signed the visitor’s book at the guest center, that former Mayor Ed Koch has already chosen his gravesite.

A pamphlet given to visitors shows the location of these famous grave sites, but I must confess that I paid no attention to them. I was interested instead in the mood of the place — the peace, the quiet, the serenity that one often finds in old cemeteries. Aside from one friendly guard/watchman, there was no one else there during the two hours I spent wandering around. I stayed on the marked pathways, but it was easy to walk quite close to the old gravestones and read the inscriptions; and I was fascinated by the elaborate family vaults — permanently sealed off, for the most part, now that all family descendants are gone. Near the visitor’s center is a new area, the mausoleum, where hundreds of small stones, arranged in neat vertical and horizontal rows, mark the resting place of people who, in many cases, have passed away fairly recently. Not in the 1850s or 1860s, as was the case with the old gravestones, but in the 2000’s. I saw one mausoleum stone with a data of 2010, and another with a man’s birthdate but no date of death — located just beside what I assume is his recently-departed wife.

Unlike people, whose constant motion complicates the job of a photographer, gravestones have the admirable feature of stability; they don’t move. Hence, every one of the photographs in this set is a handheld, 3-image HDR composition. I don’t know if it makes any difference, since many of the gravestones were fairly drab; but I wanted to pull out every bit of rich color that I could.

Sometime in the future, when I feel the need for another quiet moment of solitude, I’ll come back here. As it turns out, I only saw half of the cemetery: another section stretches from Broadway to Amsterdam, also from 153rd Street up to 155th Street, with the Church of the Intercession in its midst. I’m sure that it, too, has a story to tell … which I’ll do my best to communicate with pictures.

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