Today I left home planning to head to some woods where I think there maybe some bluebells. But for no reason I can explain I suddenly thought: ‘I want to go to a cemetery.’
I love cemeteries. I have no idea why. I first photographed one in 1995 when I was still at university and I’ve visited many in cities around the world since. They even have their own tag on my blog! Today I went to West Norwood, one of London’s Magnificent Seven. This is the fourth I’ve shot nudes in and, of course, I now need to visit the last three.
This is day 45 of my daily lockdown photo endeavour. The days where I resent it are increasing (it’s hard coming up with new ideas to shoot solo in a two bedroom flat!) but I also love it. It’s a little thing that keeps a red thread of creativity in my lockdown experience and I value the daily contact with the recipients. The photo I actually sent them earlier had a slight edit applied – a sepia tone that suited the vine-covered mausoleum. But this is the unedited version, straight out of the camera – complete with the shadow of my glasses on my cheek!
It’s no secret that I love shooting in cemeteries. You can rummage around my site or other people’s and you’ll find many examples me and my friends of getting naked with dead people! Something I often wonder when we’re having one of these adventures is what are the stories of the people who inadvertently feature in our photos? Tonight I decided to find out and with a little bit of rudimentary research amongst free public records I started to build a picture of Albert Ede’s life.
Born in the summer of 1886, Albert was the middle child of Thomas and Sarah. The couple were married young by today’s standards – teenagers. As newlyweds they lived on Isabella Street, which for Londoners, or those who know London well, is the little street just off The Cut where you’ll find lots of restaurants under the railway arches.
Albert’s birth was registered north of the river in Clerkenwell, which may have something to do with his father’s work as a brass molder; the area was a hub for watchmakers. However, by the time of the 1901 census the family were living just five minutes walk from Isabella Street on Cornwall Road. By then Sarah was a widow and 14-year-old Albert was a messenger boy.
The 1911 census tells us the family had then moved to Lothian Road in Brixton. Albert was 24 and single. His elder brother had moved out but his three sisters were all single and living at home. That four adults in their twenties should all be single and living at home with their mother fascinates me. In the early twentieth century this was very unusual. Did Albert ever marry? Without paying for his death certificate I can’t know for sure, but the dedication on this headstone is by Sarah to her son and two years after he died she was buried with him so it seems unlikely.
Albert didn’t live long enough to participate in the 1921 census – the war records show that he died on 25th January 1917, aged 30. He was Private Ede and serving in the Army Service Corp, the branch of the army that was responsible for coordinating logistics, from transport to stationery, food to fuel. He died at home in Brixton and was buried three miles away in Nunhead Cemetery.
I would love to know how he ended up with such a grand headstone when his family’s professions and circumstances would suggest a modest income. I’d love to know what he looked like, his personality, what impact his father’s death had on him, what his relationship with his mother and siblings was like, whether he had lovers.
In a parallel universe where the internet hasn’t delivered up the basic facts of a life lived more than a hundred years ago and where we can’t see that the dedication is from a mother to a prematurely departed son, I like to think of this second photo being one of those lovers visiting their “dear Albert.” Where Maria strips naked in the cemetery to feel as close to him as possible. I wonder what he’d think about his headstone being used in this way?
I’ve been a fan of photographing cemeteries for years. Way back in winter 1995 I was out photographing a snowy cemetery as my Dad called my university landline to try and get the news to me that my Grandad had died.
My business partner knows I still frequent these places with my camera – he just doesn’t know that these days my photography more often than not includes naked people! A couple of weeks ago as a late birthday present he gave me a book about where significant people are buried in London. Knowing I had this image lined up for today’s photo I thought I’d see which ghosts haunt Kensel Green Cemetery.
Alongside one Mr WH Smith (founder of the UK’s biggest high street stationers for the non-Brits) and Harold Pinter I read about Henry Spencer Ashbee. Ashbee was a city merchant by day but was also one of the country’s most prolific collectors of erotica and an occasional author of erotic fiction and personal memoirs under various pen names. He bequeathed his entire library to the British Museum but they burnt the majority of the erotica.
Excited to find out more I hopped over to Wikipedia. I discovered a character in Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith was based on his life. But I also learnt that his daughters’ excessive education irritated him, his wife’s suffragist support angered him, and he became estranged from his gay son. How awful. How often we expect liberal views to be prevalent in all aspects of a person’s life and how disappointed we are when they aren’t. I hope that in 2018, almost 200 years after he was born, his views would have softened and he would now be championing the rights of his wife and daughters and proudly waving the rainbow flag on behalf of his son.
In the meantime, I’m delighted to present one of the fiercest supporters of rights I know, the gorgeous Honey and her hot biteable butt!
I enjoyed editing yesterday’s slightly sinister shot of @19syllables so much that I’ve decided my entire week of outside photos will be as dark and moody as possible. It’ll be a change to the usual colourful exuberance of my outdoor shots!
Today I bring you my beautiful friend Maria who is also participating in February Photofest so do check out her photos through the month – they’ll definitely be amazing. But first, take a few moments to enjoy her beautiful breasts in this image. I do hope we didn’t upset whoever is resting under this headstone!
Nemophilist (noun, obscure)
A haunter of the woods; one who loves the forest and its beauty and solitude.
A shot of the wonderful Maria from her recent visit to London.
(What are you afraid of?)
And what are you made of?
(Flesh and bone)
And I’m running out of time,
(Flesh and bone)
And what are you made of?
(Flesh and bone)
I loved this week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt! Oh the joy of the shuffle button. I read the prompt on Sunday night, shortly after arriving in Tbilisi for a week-long shoot. The song it threw up for me was Flesh and Bone by The Killers. Oh I so wanted to write something thoughtful and meaningful for this. It somehow felt like ‘flesh’ and ‘bone’ should be significant in the context of a body positivity blog. Flesh (fat) for obvious reasons, but more so because of ‘bone’.
Bone. Skin and Bone. “She’s all skin and bone”. The negative language that exists around very slim, slight or androgynous women is something that I absolutely think should be talked about and addressed as part of the body positivity movement. Body positivity narrative is something that, at the moment, seems to be ‘owned’ by those of us that are more flesh than bone, but are very slim women not equally vulnerable in the face of ‘perfect’ bodies? And men, too. Why is it OK to build a whole insulting advertising campaign around the Mr Muscle caricature? This train of thought will go somewhere soon and if you want to add your thoughts or images to it then do shout – this isn’t an area from which I can speak from experience! But not this week. Work wins!
I promised Marie I would try to meet the deadline, secretly knowing my schedule meant there wasn’t a fucking chance. But sometimes it’s better to be late to the party than not turn up at all, so at 6am this morning, on the treadmill, I started wracking my brain…
Graveyards. Of course. I love graveyards. The peace, the history, the loss, the sadness, the mystery, the amazement of long lives lived, the sadness at lives cut short, the awe at being in the presence of greatness when stood in front of a famous resting place, even if they are just bones by now. I first started photographing graveyards in my final year at uni when there was a huge one at the end of my street. That was 1995. I have photographed so many graveyards since, in many countries around the world. My first naked shoot in a graveyard was 20 years on, though. Last summer. My flesh. Perched upon the memorial to someone else’s bones.
Flesh and Bones.
“They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” Pozzo, Waiting for Godot
On the surface of it, referencing Beckett doesn’t seem the obvious choice for a blog that aims to be relentlessly positive, but I love this quote. I don’t see negativity in it, it’s a rallying cry!
We are born astride a grave and the light does only gleam an instant. Life is too short not to try new things or test ourselves; too short to spend time with people who don’t enrich our lives and help us shine; too short to not be confidently naked in front of a lover or to prance on a sunny beach in our swimwear; too short to worry about what’s wobbling when we’re running, dancing, fucking…