Rochester’s Mount Hope Cemetery is one of the most remarkable Victorian cemeteries in the United States. It sits on about two hundred acres of glaciated land adjacent to the University of Rochester and has long been a favorite venue of mine for running and walking and thinking and not thinking.
A couple of decades ago, I was strolling through Mount Hope with a close friend and professional colleague. We were on a lunch break from our labors at that time as amusingly-compensated software engineers for the university’s Computing Center. The afternoon was overcast, chilly, threatening rain, and raw in the purest sense of an upstate autumn afternoon. We had our cameras in hand, as this was our Friday habit—to consult the city’s largest and most famous final resting place for the serendipitous tableau that we might capture and steal away into the darkroom. The day was verily, depressingly uncooperative.
At length, my companion stopped, removed her hat, and turned her face skyward, yearning for a few cool drops to wash away the frustration. “You know, Brian, I think a poor photographer would find little to photograph today. A mediocre photographer would probably find a few things to shoot, here and there, despite the conditions. But a great photographer? A great photographer would find absolutely nothing at all.” We had a good laugh and an even better excuse to retreat to the warmth of the campus.
That moment planted a seed that has taken root to inform my work ever since. Is it true, or is it false, that beauty is everywhere, always, in any and all conditions—there to be seen and experienced, and possibly even captured—if only we have the eye and the attention to see it? This is the central question that informs my photographic efforts, and in a larger sense, my life. I am increasingly convinced of the truth of it.
I am quite certain that the cemetery ghosts know the answer already, and my hope is that you will discover it for yourself as well—if not here, among these images, then elsewhere, out in the wider world, with your own interests and attention. If true, it is very good news indeed.