Photographer Michael Weil Captures Lake View Cemetery in Moonlight
Cleveland Heights photographer Michael Weil has long been fascinated by the beauty of Lake View Cemetery.
So for Lake View's 150th anniversary, he spent 12 late nights shooting the cemetery's monuments under moonlight.
"A cloud drifted over its face" [Michael Weil]
The exhibit is more than just an assignment for Weil as his grandfather, father and son are buried there.
His son, Josh, died in a car crash in 2015, and Weil became familiar with Lake View President and CEO Kathy Goss while making the funeral arrangements.
When he'd approached Goss years earlier with his idea of photographing the cemetery during off hours, the idea didn't go anywhere.
But circumstances changed following his son's passing, and as the 150th anniversary approached for 2019 Goss gave Weil the key to the cemetery.
"Stella and the Wasps" [Michael Weil]
From January to December of 2018, Weil went to Lake View on or around the full moon with his camera.
"As I travelled in Lake View at night I noticed things I never noticed at daytime," Weil said. "Moonlight is a much different experience than daylight."
"Black Moon Light" [Michael Weil]
Some of the monuments that stood out in the darkness were the Peck family gravestone sculptures.
"Right across from Garfield near Rockefeller are these two cloaked female figures," he said. "They are life size and so haunting and intriguing."
"Gallicineum" [Michael Weil]
A challenge was that he was always on high alert given the late-night aspect of each moonlit shoot.
"My fight or flight mechanisms were at work. So any sounds I heard, any movement, definitely my nerves were on end. So I had to stay balanced and focused, no pun intended," he said.
"We in the Grottot" [Michael Weil]
He got the opportunity to go inside the James A. Garfield Memorial, which was a haunting experience.
"The key is about a foot long, brass skeleton key that looks like something you would present to somebody as a key to the city or something from the Wizard of Oz," he said. "You turn it and you hear the clanking and the gears moving. I pushed that big door open and the echoing throughout this empty Garfield monument was really fascinating. That was a bit off-putting."
"Don't the Night Pass Slow" [Michael Weil]
Once inside, Weil got the shot he was looking for.
"I had the chance to photograph the actual Garfield sculpture, by some moonlight coming through the windows," he said.
"Back to Moonlight" [Michael Weil]
The moonlight often gives off a blue tint to his color photographs.
"We all hear about the blue moonlight," he said. "It is truly an experience to see, especially in the winter when there's snow on the ground, this glowing blue comes from the moon."
"temple of the blue moon" [Michael Weil]
Currently, about 40 large-print photos are installed outside at Lake View cemetery.
"They are shown throughout the cemetery in different groupings," he said. "They're in metal frames that are set into the ground. Beautifully elegant frames made by a blacksmith [Ken Roby of Village Blacksmith] in Chagrin Falls."
Adding weight to the exhibition is the anniversary of the moon landing this summer.
"I had no idea, naively, that this was going to be the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing. The world seems to be gaga about the moon and there are exhibitions all over the world," he said. "I think the obvious point is that people are intrigued by the moon. We always have been."
"Luminous Mysteries" [Michael Weil]
Michael Weil's "Moonlight in the Gates: 150 Years of Lake View Cemetery in a New Reflective Light" is on view at Lake View Cemetery through October 2020.
The images are also on view at Weil's Foothill Galleries in Cleveland Heights through August 31.
Michael Weil [ideastream]
Hear more about the history of Lake View Cemetery