Mountain View Cemetery

Wendy Kwan

Very near the geographic centre of Vancouver is Mountain View, a cemetery of grand proportion, covering 106 acres of land. Mountain View is Vancouver’s only cemetery and is primarily bordered by residential neighbourhoods.

A cemetery repels some, while others find intrigue and fascination. Some could never live within sight, while others are willing to share a property line.

It is over 20 years since we bought our home, located just a half a block from one of many access points to Mountain View. Proximity to a cemetery never entered into our decision when we chose our neighbourhood, and we have no regrets.

We can often be found walking and photographing in Mountain View, in our wanders we usually run into neighbours out for their afternoon or evening stroll, usually with kids and pets in tow. Much community information is exchanged in this cemetery! Though some may find this all disconcerting, it is the comfortable reality for all of us who live near Mountain View. It is truly a feature of our community – a place to be respected, a place for reflection, and a place for reconnection. I often find myself hoping that those souls who rest below us are pleased with the vibrant community that shares their space – their lives again considered as we pass their names and brief histories.

A stroll around these vast grounds reveals a fascinating record of Vancouver’s past. Names associated with early development of the city, the Howes, the Dunsmuirs, the Yips, many recognized for their contributions by city streets and monuments named in their honour. From famous personalities, war veterans, Masons, members of distinct ethnic groups, to a recently developed memorial for babies who died at birth, all share the grounds at Mountain View.

Lately the cemetery has been busy with upgrading and revitalization. New niche walls for cremated remains have been installed – important because the burial grounds of the cemetery are either occupied or spoken for. A new celebration centre and works yard has been constructed and new trees and landscaping have appeared. There’s even an artist in residence program, and the hosting of community events such as “A Night for All Souls”, held around Halloween.

The continually evolving body of work we present here shares our wanderings through the cemetery over years and seasons. We use the cemetery to test new films, try new visual approaches, and take advantage of her extraordinary presence and topography during unusual climatic events and special light periods. We have been known on many occasions to “run back to the house” to grab a camera. Sometimes we’re in time to capture that which was compelling, and sometimes not. Things change quickly - the nature of life, and photography!


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