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The Timeless Art of Death

Gary Miller

In my time as a writer, I've found one thing to be true: if you're looking for a good story, go where the obsession is. I've spent time with, interviewed, and written about everyone from prima ballerinas and major league pitchers to marine biologists and luthiers, and obsession, by which I mean intense curiosity and tireless passion, was the characteristic they all shared. 

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of viewing the results of another obsession—this time, the obsession of Dan Barlow and Scott Baer with Vermont graveyards. For a year or better, I've watched online as the two friends'  obsession played out, with beautiful—and often highly emotional—photographs of stone carving from Vermont cemeteries. But seeing their work formally displayed in the gallery at the Vermont Historical Society in Montpelier took things to another level. 

The photos, spanning centuries of carving tradition and supported by well-written, informative display text, tell the story of how funerary customs in Vermont changed over time as people's ideas about death and the afterlife changed. The beauty of the stones in the photos, often enhanced  by the passage of decades, reveal the human spirit invested in these everyday works of art, which are truly meant to transcend time.

I'd highly recommend a visit to the show, and wish the two shooters the best of luck in their goal of documenting all of Vermont's more than 1000 graveyards.  Great work, guys, and congratulations.