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The Cemetery Project

For a number of years, I have been tracking the objects left by visitors at some celebrity graves in Paris, particularly the things left at the grave of Renée Vivien (Pauline Mary Tarn, 1877-1909) in the Passy cemetery in Paris.

I am interested in the wide range of things that people leave, from conventional offerings such as flowers to things like used Metro tickets that have no intrinsic value but are ready to hand and easy to part with. Regardless of the inherent value of the object, some of the things people leave are clearly connected to the subject and suggest that the person came intentionally to visit the grave, prepared to leave a tribute. Other objects suggest spontaneity: having found or come across the grave, the person wanted to leave some sort of token, and "made do" with whatever was available in a pocket or a bag.

Despite its central location across from the Eiffel Tower, the Passy cemetery is seldom visited by tourists (unlike, say, the popular Père Lachaise cemetery on the other side of Paris). Most people don't simply "stumble across" the graves of Renée Vivien or Natalie Barney by accident, which suggests that most of the objects left on these sites were placed there by people who came with the intention of visiting the cemetery (whether or not they came to see these graves specifically). 

The following photos are organized by subject and by year.

The images of Renée Vivien's grave over the years are the most detailed. You can also view some other celebrity graves for comparison. For example, Natalie Clifford Barney is buried in the same cemetery as Renée Vivien, but her grave always seems bare in comparison. Oscar Wilde, on the other hand, is in the well-known Père Lachaise cemetery that receives a lot more tourist traffic, and is a famous "cult" site, always overflowing with tributes.

RV Grave 2015.JPG

Renée Vivien


Natalie Barney

OW sphinx 2.JPG

Oscar Wilde

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