Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Undertaking Photos

These are photos from a project of mine, documenting the daily reality of death in a small Midwestern community. 
Christmas Chapel

Parking cars for a funeral procession

Open cremation Grave
At church

Friday, December 9, 2011

In Heaven, Underground

In Heaven, Underground, documents the lively continuing history of Berlin-Weissensee, the largest active Jewish Cemetery in Europe.  The engaging work of award winning director and producer, Britta Wauer, this film beautifully portrays the joys and sorrows of Weissensee through the lives of people intimately involved in the past, present and future of the cemetery.

Incredibly, the graves and monuments of Weissensee Cemetery in Eastern Berlin survived the Nazi Regime and WWII undefiled.  Superstitions left the cemetery a refuge during the early years of the Reich, and even after all of it's community was deported, the circumstances of war and priorities allowed the cemetery to remain untouched.     

Untended during the war, and shut off from the West after the partition of Berlin, the physical damage to Weisensee took the form of overgrowth and monument decay.  Already lush, the cemetery became a forest in the middle of a major metropolitan center. 

Today, cemetery staff and volunteers are gradually bringing the cemetery back to the glory that it once was.  We see the present day casket builders, groundskeepers and masons, rabbis and administrators at their work and in reflection.  We see Holocaust survivors, and descendants of the cemetery's dead returning to find graves that they thought were lost forever.  We hear of joyful times spent within the cemetery walls.  We see very personal loss, and gain an understanding of just how important a cemetery can be to survivors.      

The cemetery is a museum, an archaeological dig, and a village.  It is a place of old stories waiting to be rescued and new ones waiting to unfold. The stories that are shared here are always touched by a profound sadness and sense of loss, but shining through also are the individuals who make up the story of  Weissensee, their humanity, their contributions, and the spectacular beauty of this treasure of a cemetery.   


For more information about this documentary,visit 7th Art Releasing
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Funeral service faces a crisis of relevance, and I am passionate about keeping the best traditions of service alive while adapting to the changing needs of families. Feel free to contact me with questions, or to share your thoughts on funeral service, ritual, and memorialization. dailyundertaker@gmail.com