30 August 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: Portraits set in stone

A few days ago I read an article about something called an "e-tomb," which appears to be a solar-powered electronic grave marker which stores the deceased's pictures, videos, blog posts, archives from social networking sites, etc. so that visitors to the grave can access it by plugging a bluetooth device into the grave marker itself. The article doesn't indicate exactly what stage of development this product is in, but I think it's sort of an interesting concept. The information about the dead inscribed on most gravestones is often beautifully presented and accompanied by some lovely artwork, but tends to be pretty bare in terms of actual data, never mind giving a real sense of personality or life.

Walking through our local city cemetery on Sunday morning, I was reminded that some gravestones already incorporate a very low-tech way to display a reminder of what the deceased was like in life- photographs.

These photos are customarily formal portraits, but sometimes even a formal posed portrait can reveal a real moment of life and humanity- discomfort and displeasure with uncomfortable dress clothes and stiff poses, for instance.

I had been under the impression that the inclusion of memorial photos as part of the grave marker itself was an older style, but I saw a personally surprising number of quite recent gravestones at this particular cemetery with photographs set into them, and a quick Google search demonstrates that at least a handful of marker companies do offer this service, in the form of ceramic plaques.

Older gravestones with photos held a photo behind a pane of glass; I remember once seeing a stone at an old, poorly-tended cemetery in the college town where I used to live, which had a shallow oval recess in the stone where the photograph would have rested. At the foot of the stone, hidden in the grass, I found some fragments of broken, dirty glass which fit into the edges of the stone "frame" perfectly.

I did not take many pictures of the more recent photographic gravestones (nor as many as I wanted of the older ones; even with an early start, triple-digit temperatures dictate short outings), but the shared headstone of the Castors was too sweet and moving to pass by.

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