When Kim McCollum with Elmwood Cemetery here in Memphis asked me if I wanted to be their photographer in residence last year, I was stunned. Yet, now over a year later, I'm humbled to have worked with such an amazing and quite historical place. I feel like family, if that makes any sense. I even have a tea blend made especially for the cemetery! Thanks to the book, Images of America: Elmwood Cemetery by Kimberly McCollum and Willy Bearden, my appreciation of the cemetery has grown. If you are looking for a holiday gift for someone who loves history, anything involving the South, Memphis history, cemetery history, or just a really cool gift, you can't go wrong with this book!
Elmwood Cemetery was opened in 1852 and since then has become the final resting place of many a famous (and infamous) Memphian. Elmwood was the final place of those who died from natural causes, epidemics like the Yellow Fever, or from strange and unusual circumstances. Although most memorial gardens and graveyards have the small square stone or tombstone for their dead, cemeteries like Elmwood are a part of an almost forgotten history. Once you cross the bridge into the cemetery, you feel as though you have traveled back in time, or that you have stumbled into a beautiful Necropolis. McCollum and Bearden have presented the cemetery in such a way that you can't help but feel life flowing through every page.
The book also mentions the meanings behind cemetery symbols on tombstones and statues like ivy (everlasting life), arches (portal in which the soul passes into immortality), weeping willows (death was final), and many others. Many of the lives of the "residents" are mentioned in the book as well; I had no idea that Elmwood was the final home to so many colourful beings who added to the overall spirit that is Memphis. Even the victims and heroes of the Yellow Fever are mentioned in the book with much care and detail to the tragic history.
The book is available through Elmwood's website or in their gift shop. I highly recommend taking one of their tours to get a feel of the place, or visiting during one of their events such as Spirits with the Spirits. I will warn you - plan to spend several hours at Elmwood if you want to try to see everything, yet the time is well worth it!
(all photos taken by me with much respect for the "residents")