Sacred Ground: The Cemeteries of New Orleans

Princeton Architectural. Oct. 2019. 192p. photos. index. ISBN 9781616898212. $40. PHOTOG
New Orleans’s distinctive above-ground cemeteries, necessitated by the high-water table, are one of a kind in the United States. The structures reflect centuries of changing architectural styles. Photographer Brantley (Henry Howard: Louisiana’s Architect) presents 21 tomb photos accompanied by well-researched biographies of the deceased in “an attempt to make these New Orleans citizens live again, to be appreciated, and, most important, remembered.” The book’s second part focuses on tombs, statuary, and engraved elements of note, exclusively in black-and-white photos. Visual presentation is Brantley’s forte, and this volume only briefly delves into defining regional tomb characteristics in the introduction by historian F. Frederick Starr, which proves the most interesting reading. The variety of construction materials and the frequent state of advanced decay might resonate more through color photography than the limits imposed by black and white. Sally Asher’s Stories from the St. Louis Cemeteries of New Orleans, although more limited in scope, executes the same concept with greater impact through lengthy historical context and the inclusion of color images.
VERDICT A focused visual celebration of New Orleans’s tomb architecture targeting well-informed readers or duotone photography aficionados.
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