My dead are better than yours

Just like any restaurant, club, or bar, the popularity of a cemetery rests upon the fame of its clients. In this case, its dead people. The Pere Lachaise in Paris got off to a rough start. It was inaugurated in 1804 with the burial of Adelaide Paillard de Villeneuve, a five year old girl. Who? Exactly my point.

For years, the cemetery dwindled with an inhumation here, an inhumation there… until 1817 when in a brilliant marketing move, the Mayor of Paris relocated Moliere and Lafontaine to Pere Lachaise. Et voila! By 1830, it boasted more than 33,000 tombs.

Pere Lachaise stairs

Climbing the stairs of the entrance Boulevard de Menilmontant, I realize how American I have become. My first thought does not address the beauty of time passed, but rather crudely the need for good liability insurance.

Per Lachaise an alley

Taking a walk in Pere Lachaise constitute a wonderful reprieve from the city’s crowded parks. Peaceful and artsy. That’s the one place where you can safely shush a child who does not belong to you. Respect for the dead trumps exclusive parental rights.

Dilapidated tombs

Some tombs appear dilapidated. Some wrestle with precarious balance. It’s charming.

Pere Lachaise mausoleum

Ancient mausoleums still bear the signs of remembrance.

Tomb of frederic Chopin

Then of course, there is the mingling with the famous. Chopin in the above flowery tomb. Across from him, Laprade holding a very small bouquet in comparison. Not as well-liked I suppose.


But the numero UNO reason why Americans all over the world know about Pere Lachaise is of course… The one and only Jim Morrison. Well, not to re-ignite the fire of resentment towards the French and spark a new freedom tomb controversy, but I surmise Jim Morrison got robbed.

Jim Morrison\'s tomb

Clearly. His tomb is lodged behind a mausoleum and wedged between two tombs. And what’s the point of being buried in Pere Lachaise if you don’t even have a commemorative statue adorning your place of respose? In all fairness, there was a bust but it was stolen in 1988. I opt for a life-size rendition. Preferably circa “young lion” years. With the leather pants s’il-vous-plait.

27 responses to “My dead are better than yours

  1. I wouldn’t be seen dead in such a place. πŸ™‚

    Great blog.

  2. It’s going to sound seriously sick but each time I visit Paris I head over to Pere Lachaise – those holocaust statues phew

    Fabulous photos, now am drooling and missing it… as I said sick isn’t it

  3. SanityFound, a girl according to my own heart! I know exactly which artwork you mean. These monuments are horrifyingly haunting… just did not have the proper lens this time around.
    Thanks for the compliment!

    Monsieur yesbuts (or Madame yesbuts), yes but I’m sure you’d have your own statue. Thanks for liking the blog!

  4. Oh my goodness, I adore these photos. I now *have* to visit Paris. Another destination to add to the list. The 4th photo down is my favourite… absolutely gorgeous!

  5. One *has* to visit Paris! It is the most beautiful town. Of course, coming from Brisbane, you have a bit of a trip in front of you. When you do, please bring me one of these cute dragons, will you? Thanks! Er, a sweet one of course!

  6. I have always loved cemeteries. I find them peaceful and reassuring, never spooky or macabre. Growing up in New Hampshire, I grew up with some fairly dire messages on the local slates. Lots of “Memento Mori” and “One day, this will be you.”, complete with grinning skulls or round faced cherubs. I don’t know why, but I always liked spending time there.

    I have been saying since I was 15 that my dream retirement job would be Cemetery Keeper. It’s quiet, beautiful and the folks you deal with don’t complain. Not bad work if you can get it!

    Oddly enough, my two year old son, Short Stack seems to have inherited it as well. He will actually ask to go to the local grave yard to play among the stones.

    Beautiful pictures! I can’t wait to go back to Paris. Somehow, in my past visits, I have never gone to The Pere Lachaise. I will endeavor to change that!

    Turkish Prawn

  7. I visited Evita’s grave in the Recoleta Cemetary in Buenos Aires and her grave is so-so, but the cemetary is awesome: a goths fantasy!

    I like visiting cemetaries; sometimes it’s the surroundings, sometimes it’s the feel, sometimes it’s the history.

    note: How to piss off an Argentine? Say, “Madonna’s grave is really cool” πŸ™‚

  8. I absolutely love your work. I’m a huge fan of black and white (particularly for portraits), and you do an fantastic job. I could go on, but it would just be gushing. πŸ™‚

  9. Mr. Prawn, while I understand the perks associated with a cemetery career, I can assure you it had actually never crossed my mind. That’s really pushing the love a bit far.

    “Dream retirement job”? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

    Planetross, what a coincidence! My next trip will hopefully take me to Argentina to photograph Buenos Aires, tangueros, gauchos, and dead people’s dwellings (where I will refrain from provoking an international incident – thanks for the tip!)
    Moscow’s Novodevichye is also on the list. So many cemetaries, so little time…

  10. Crash8088, Thank you so VERY much. I assure you there is nothing wrong with gushing. Nothing. So feel free to gush, gush, gush to your little heart’s content. This girl would never hold it against you!

  11. Awesome photos! I wonder where Scott Smith of “Loverboy” is buried. Hmm, I may be the only one outside of family who cares.

  12. Well, Matt, funny you mention that, because just a few months ago, I had sushi with two members of the band.
    That being said, I don’t think Scott Smith is buried anywhere. Shark bait. Unfortunate.

  13. A treasure trove of stone work.

  14. Okay, I’m intrigued. I’ll guess you dined with Matt Frenette and Paul Dean?

  15. Matt and Jerry. Jerry is the sound guy. My friend Dorin (you know The Old 97’s “Dorin”, that’s her) is a die-hard Loverboy fan and have known all these guys for a long time. I have no merit. Just tagging along…

  16. You are scaring me!
    I had Jerry Wong stay at my place for a week at the beginning of June. He came to play a concert with a mutual friend, Kelly Pettit.

    It is a very small world πŸ™‚

  17. great photos. you bring a graveyard to life in still-life, nice work.

  18. Thank you Warriorwitch! Have we been behaving lately?

    Planetross, you spooky manchild… Abetting subversive musicians! Well, I would appreciate if you could call Jerry and ask him where my Broken Condom Babies teeshirt is… Tell him I check my mailbox every day. With streams of tears running down my wee cheeks. How do you know Kelly Pettit? Are you from Vancouver?

  19. No one is actually from Vancouver: we are all from Nanaimo, Port Alberni, or Duncan. The “Broken Condom Babies” t-shirts: I’ve seen them but I don’t have one either.

    Kelly Pettit: we’ve lived down the road from each other for years. I’d say he was my best friend: but i could be wrong.

  20. Yes, Nathalie these are hugely impressive photos. Finally made it over to your site…;) A fly over NYC there is a cemetary that is hard to miss and another in Puerto Rico that I would love to visit again just to photograph. Another time and with the living in mind. From one Texas girl to another. Love your site.

  21. From a Texas girl to another, thank you πŸ˜‰

  22. Hello again. I didn’t like my last response, so I’ll leave another πŸ™‚

    I’ll send Jerry an e-mail about the t-shirt.
    I’ve known Kelly since my first day in Japan (10 years ago). We both live in the same small city and have become pretty good friends. Jerry and Aaron (also of Broken Condom Babies) stayed at my place because I have lots of room and Kelly doesn’t. Myself and Kelly actually grew up quite near each other on Vancouver Island, but only met in Japan.
    It was a pretty good concert too πŸ™‚

  23. Planetross, do you live in Japan? Land of SUSHI? I’m so jealous! If you managed to get me a tee-shirt, you would be my HERO forever. Truly.

  24. hahahahahaa
    i loved the title on this one!

  25. err, what do you mean ‘behaving’?

    (and the answer is probably ‘no’)

  26. I skipped the cemetery, but I thought Oscar Wilde’s tomb was the big attraction there? Maybe that’s a British obsession.

    Gorgeous photos. “An inhumation here, an inhumation there…” Brilliantly understated humour. I love it.

  27. Thank you for reminding how much I miss spending time in cemeteries. I just discovered your blog and I’m so thrilled about your photographs of tombs and overgrown pathways… so romantic!

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