A Greener Death

The fall semester is coming to a close, and with that my project on Duck Run Natural Cemetery. I have finished my photo story and I'm posting it here. 

This project might be over but my learning about death care is not! I think there's so much left to learn about and so many people left to learn from. This experience has been interesting and educational, so much so that I can't imagine it ending now or ever. I hope that you enjoy the final photo story, which very much ended up being an exploration of space at the natural burial cemetery. While working on putting together the final project, I decided that the most important part of this cemetery is absolutely the space and how beautiful it is. 

So, enjoy this photo story and check back here occasionally for more updates on death care!

Death Spaces.

I've been really pleased with the attention my last post received on social media and am so happy and excited that more people are learning about death care and what they want done once they die. 

In my first post I mentioned that I'm actually working on a few different death-related projects this semester. In addition to photojournalism this semester, I'm also enrolled in Fine Art Photography, which is one of the best classes I've ever taken. For that class, the work we create is more conceptual and personal. 

For my first fine art critique, I decided to focus on death spaces and how they function in our society. How do we memorialize our dead? 

I chose five different locations and chose two pictures from each location for my project, which took the form of a hand-tied book. Each location is a different cemetery or burial ground but all are public death spaces. 

I chose all my locations for different reasons. Some of them are very traditional cemeteries, while others are parks that people are probably familiar with, but unaware that they're burial grounds. 

I'm including links, at the bottom of this post, to more information about each of my locations. I urge you to read about the locations as you view the photographs. What I found most interesting in this series were not the well-manicured cemeteries that we generally think of, but the ones with forgotten pasts. 

Methodist Cemetery

Adams Memorial

Walter Pierce Park

Duck Run Cemetery 

Washington Square Park

Duck Run Cemetery

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of visiting Duck Run Cemetery in Penn Laird, Virginia. Duck Run is a natural burial cemetery, which means bodies are buried either unembalmed or embalmed with Green Burial Council certified chemicals and then buried in plain, biodegradable caskets or burial shrouds. 

The view from the top of the hill.  Photo by Anna Rutenbeck.

The view from the top of the hill. Photo by Anna Rutenbeck.

Duck Run was totally beautiful and unlike any other cemetery I've visited. In talking with the cemetery director, Glenn Jenelle, I learned a lot about his cemetery and his mission with the cemetery. Glenn is trying to create a beautiful place, and he's done a wonderful job. There's a landscaping plan for Duck Run which includes entirely edible plants. 

Flowers in the scattering garden, an area for people to scatter cremated remains.  Photo by Anna Rutenbeck.

Flowers in the scattering garden, an area for people to scatter cremated remains. Photo by Anna Rutenbeck.

Glenn stocks the pond with fish for fishing, raises ducks, hosts birding groups, and camping trips for boy scouts. Glenn's goal is to create a place for the community. He doesn't want people to be afraid of or "creeped out" by cemeteries. 

Glenn and I had a chance to talk about natural burial and death acceptance as he drove me around the grounds of the cemetery on his gator. People are afraid of death and don't want to think about it, which prevents them from thinking about their post-mortem plans. I think people should think about their plans. 

Duck Run Cemetery is owned by Kyger Funeral Home, which owns two funeral homes in the area (one in Harrisonburg and one in Elkton). The president of Kyger, Kenny, says that him and Glenn were inspired to open Duck Run after listening to their clientele. People wanted an option other than traditional burial or cremation, so Kenny and Glenn listened. They opened Duck Run in 2012, and they've done a beautiful job. 

Natural burial cemeteries are growing in popularity, in part because of the health and environmental risks of formaldehyde. In this post, I'm including a video from one of my favorite YouTubers about the risks of formaldehyde. 

More Photos from Duck Run

Caring for our dead.

Hello! This fall (2015), I'm registered in a class entitled "Photojournalism and Social Documentary". For this class, every student is required to produce a complete photo story over the course of the semester.

I have chosen to complete my project with a focus on alternative death care, including; home funerals, natural burial, and cremation. I've just started this project but have already talked to some amazing people who are involved in the alternative death care community. I'm starting this blog as a way to track my progress with this project, as well as share the work I'm doing with the the online community.