Back in 2004 when Amanda Norman visited St Peter’s Churchyard in Heysham to take some personal photographs, she never for one minute thought that her fascination with graveyard photography would keep on growing and growing. The graveyard photographs were simply for her to look at to bring back cherished memories of a place where she used to play at as a child.
Not many people hang out in churchyards and if you do come across people tending to a grave, they are always polite and friendly. Amanda would spend a lot of time in the churchyard and up on the Barrows, because it was like an adventure, going that little bit further than the park at the bottom of the street. It was exciting and different!
Unfortunately, this fell apart for her at the age of 9 due to her mother marrying a cruel and horrific wife beater who was also an alcoholic. She was ripped away from her childhood, both physically and mentally, hence returning after nearly 24 years away to take some personal photographs, which turned out to be absolute rubbish that held no emotions whatsoever. This was the turning point when she realised that graveyard photography was about capturing emotions and not just a picture.
Amanda’s photographing of graveyards therefore began in 2004 and over the years she has been to some wonderful places, favourites being Ireland and Edinburgh, both of which have started her new fascination with photographing Memento Mori headstones. Each symbol on a Memento Mori headstone has a meaning, but generally, all mortality symbols remind us to live life for today as tomorrow it could be over. The various skulls, skeletons and cadavers remind us that no matter what our status is in life, we will all become this.
In 2013, Amanda met Mark Kneale and their first holiday together was to Glasgow Necropolis to photograph the cemetery. Mark has always had an interest in symbolism and he has suggested for a few years now that she looks more at the headstone symbols and their meanings, especially in Victorian cemeteries.
With Mark’s fascination for iconography and symbolism, the pair have started to look more deeply into the meaning of symbols on headstones and the subject is fascinating. The wealth of knowledge that the pair of them are now absorbing is being collated here to create Headstone Symbols, which will be a resource of information to help others who have an interest in finding out more about the hidden secrets of the deceased.