Photographer's Multimedia Show Seeks To Dispel Cemetery Stereotypes

Oct 16, 2018

The old phrase “whistling past graveyards” suggests how our culture has traditionally viewed the grounds where we bury our dead: as places of mourning, or even dread, to be avoided for as long as one can manage.

William D. Wade sees more there. The former Post-Gazette photojournalist is drawn to cemeteries. From California to Confederate graves in Virginia and back to Southwestern Pennsylvania, he’s visited dozens, and captured them in all seasons and at all times of day and night. Thursday, projections of these artful mages anchor his Oct. 18 show God’s Acre and Other Stories, appropriately staged in the chapel of Homewood Cemetery.

“I want to put a challenge to people’s notions of cemeteries, not only being places of death, but also, life, history, beauty and sanctuary,” Wade says. “I’m hoping that this event is going to pull together aspects of art, history and health care all into one.”

The photographs capture gravestones, memorial statuary, and even wildlife from 30 cemeteries. But in God’s Acre, Wade also incorporates images of the final months of his late father’s life; waterfalls, another favorite subject of his; and what he calls “ghost houses,” or the remnants of torn-down houses in Pittsburgh.

The multimedia program is set to pre-recorded original music by local violinist Lisa Miles. The evening also includes a brief tour of Homewood Cemetery led by Jennie Benford, of the Homewood Cemetery Historical Fund, and a talk on the art of cemeteries by Chatham University art historian Elisabeth Roark. A reception will follow.

Wade is an internationally exhibited artist and photographer who’s had solo shows locally at Silver Eye Center for Photography and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

While the Oct. 18 event happens after dark and 13 days before Halloween, Wade says he isn’t out to spook anyone – that would just play into stereotypes of cemeteries. But the venue was carefully chosen.

“Having the photographs of the cemeteries projected on a big screen in the cemetery chapel is going to be more evocative,” he says. “It’ll make you think more about what you’re looking at.

God’s Acre begins with the cemetery tour at 6 p.m. The remainder of the program begins at 7 p.m.

Homewood Cemetery is located in Point Breeze. Admission to God’s Acre is free.

Here is the event's Facebook page.