New book by the Taxels explores the many views of Lake View Cemetery
Barney Taxel, as a rule, works methodically. Whether he’s adjusting lights in his Midtown studio or traipsing through the snow in Lake View Cemetery, Taxel’s photographic process builds infinitesimally and delicately to an exacting final product. Light, shadow, texture and framing are evaluated and adjusted, working purposefully toward a single, perfect photo.
Taxel’s new book, The Lake View Cemetery: Photographs from Cleveland’s Historic Landmark, is the culmination of more than 10 years worth of photographic construction. Published by University of Akron Press ($62.95, October 2014), the 230-page book pairs Barney’s photography with text by his wife, Laura Taxel, an award-winning journalist and co-author of Cleveland’s West Side Market: 100 Years & Still Cooking, among other books.
Alternating black-and-white with color photographs throughout its pages, the book reflects the many lives of those interred at Lake View Cemetery since its establishment in 1869—some lively, others solemn.
As Laura writes in the introduction, “It is a place filled with stories of lives that unfolded on front lines and in back rooms, on stage and behind the scenes, for only a day or until the age of a hundred, in the halls of power and around kitchen tables, against the odds or with every advantage.”
How appropriate that book’s introductory photograph is of the grave of Raymond Johnson Chapman, the Indians ballplayer killed by a wayward pitch in 1920—a man who, for an instant, lived a life of advantage and was beaten by the odds.
The Taxels cover the history of the park in full, juxtaposing historical excerpts with relevant photographs, and also illustrate what The Lake View Cemetery is in the present. The book documents the gaiety of weddings held on the cemetery grounds, and warm summer evenings and crisp winter mornings.
Taxel’s images even capture other photographers wandering through, training their lenses on natural and artificial monuments alike. Turning the book’s pages is much like an exploration of the cemetery itself—at times brooding, at other times joyful, and occasionally sobering.
The book’s most striking images follow the same pattern of comingling melancholy and celebration. Daffodil Hill in bloom, the weathered, weeping green Angel of Death Victorious, and the ornate Tiffany glass of the Wade Memorial Chapel are all captured in crisp, supple balance by the photographer’s lens and contextualized with the writer’s pen.
For readers inclined to explore the cemetery on their own, the book includes a meticulously cross-referenced index and map to enable visitors to find their way to the sites rendered on the page. Arranged in sections around both specific locations and general themes, Laura Taxel’s research brings forth the cemetery’s rich history through both document-based research and interviews.
In a section titled “The Voices of Lake View,” Lake View docent Wayne Bifano describes the cemetery’s appeal—a place of rest for both the famous and the everyman, worthy of exploration in words, photographs and firsthand experience.
“When I was a kid, my father would bring me there with him,” recalled Bifano. “We lived in Little Italy and we used to walk, but after we moved out to Geauga County, he’d say, ‘Hop in the truck kid, we’re going to paradise.’ ”
The Taxels have several book signings planned for December:
- Dec. 6, 3–4 p.m., Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Blvd.
- Dec. 13, 1–2 p.m., Mac’s Backs, 1820 Coventry Road
- Dec. 14, 3–5 p.m., The Wine Spot, 2271 Lee Road
The Taxels also have a book talk and signing scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Botanical Garden's Eleanor Squire Library.
Sheehan Hannan is an editorial assistant at Cleveland Magazine and Inside Business Magazine, and a resident of University Circle. He worked as an intern for a summer in Barney Taxel’s studio and was a student of his at Case Western Reserve University. He has no financial stake in The Lake View Cemetery book.