Concession à Perpétuité ( Granted Forever)
Le Père Lachaise cemetery is located in Paris. It covers 118 acres, is the largest park in Paris, and the largest outdoor sculpture garden in France. There are only two ways to permanently get into Le Père Lachaise cemetery: be born in Paris or die in Paris.
Though I had spent much time in Paris over the past 45 years since meeting my wife in May 1968, I had never visited Le Père Lachaise until January 2001. About the only thing I knew about it was that Jim Morrison of the Doors was buried there.
My wife’s mother suffered a mild stroke on New Year’s Eve. I visited her at the Tenon Hospital near Place Gambetta the next day. When I left the hospital around noon, I found myself walking, head down, thinking about aging and dying and death.
It was the first of January, New Year’s Day, and the streets were practically empty. It was a cold gray overcast day. Everywhere moisture dripped from tree branches and awnings in front of cafes. I looked up and found that I was standing in front of the Porte Gambetta entrance to Le Père Lachaise cemetery.
Le Père Lachaise is a very quiet place. As I moved towards the center, the sounds of Paris receded and then completely disappeared. In the dead of winter on a cold gray day on the first of January, 2001, there were few others about. But there was the sound of moisture dripping from the trees.
This was my introduction to Le Père Lachaise and the beginning of a photographic exploration involving countless trips and a project that has grown to more than 80 images.
These photographs were shot on film until 2007 and digital after that.