I’ve been to Highgate in high summer, and sweated my way around the west side, looking for relief in the form of shade from overhanging trees. I’ve been to West Norwood in spring, when frothy pink blossom exploded from every branch, making the whole cemetery look like a disco. I’ve been to Kensal Green on a day so dark and wet that my feet were soaked before we’d covered even a quarter of the cemetery. But I’ve never been to a cemetery in the middle of frozen January, and I wanted to see what the gravestones looked like covered in a glittering sheen of winter frost. I also wanted to capture a cemetery just after sunrise, dowsed in mist. So I trotted down the road to Beckenham Cemetery on the Elmers End Road in South London, home of W G Grace and Thomas Crapper’s final resting places, just after sunrise on the first Saturday morning of the year where the temperature had dipped below freezing. There was no mist, but the sun rose from behind the trees and illuminated the icy stone and marble and there was no-one about and it was like being in Wonderland. For the dead.
And I took photos. Because that’s what I do.
And here they are.
There’s something a bit magical about walking around a cemetery in daylight when nobody else is there. Somehow, the ice and frost made the place seem even more calm and even more still. I hope that comes across in the photographs.
‘The cemetery is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.’
Percy Bysshe Shelley
‘I dig art. With a shovel. In the cemetery.’