Photos celebrate Rosary Cemetery

“A Celebration of Life” might seem like an odd title for an exhibition of photographs of a cemetery, but to the man who took them it makes perfect sense.

"A Celebration of Life" might seem like an odd title for an exhibition of photographs of a cemetery, but to the man who took them it makes perfect sense.

Paul Lynch lives just round the corner from the Rosary Cemetery in Norwich, a hidden corner of the city with its own unique place in history.

The Rosary, opened in 1821, was England's first non-denominational cemetery and is the final resting place for city folk from almost every imaginable walk of life.

It's also a nature haven. The older part of the cemetery has been left to grow wild, and naturalists have counted 160 different species of plant, nearly 60 types of bird and dozens of butterflies and moths.

And for Paul, it's a place of rest, recreation and relaxation that helps him feel closer to his brother Simon, who died in an accident 23 years ago.

Paul, 52, has dedicated the exhibition at the Assembly House, Norwich, to the memory of Simon and his close friend, Daniel Colley, who committed suicide in 2002.

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Paul was born and brought up in London's East End but has lived in Norwich for the past 20 years.

He moved to a house in one of the streets nearby three years ago and now thinks of the Rosary as an alternative back garden.

"My back garden backs on to the road so I don't feel like sitting out there," he explains. "There are some very big cemeteries where I was brought up but I haven't come across anything as beautiful as this."

Paul, who works as a caretaker, visits the cemetery a couple of times a week on average, and more frequently if the weather is fine. Often he takes his camera, photographing whatever catches his eye.

"It is tucked away - it's like a little gem in Norwich," he says.

"If you didn't know it was here you would never find it: the amount of people that say, 'I'd heard about it but didn't know where it was.'

"It's a place where I can experience a sense of spaciousness and where I can enjoy the beauty of the wildlife.

"In my photographs I've tried to convey this sense of beauty and stillness, using black and white as I find it more easily captures these moods."

Doesn't Paul find it quite a morbid place to spend time? "Not really," he says, although he does admit: "If you are feeling a bit blue it can give a sad tinge to the place.

"Some of the situations must have caused a lot of grief - but it's a beautiful place and it's very peaceful."

Paul's photos include close-ups of some of the fine details on the cemetery's many ornate headstones.

"Some of the stones are quite lovely. You don't know the person but you do know that was somebody's life. They still have an impact on us when we walk around."

Paul, who is one of seven children, is severely dyslexic. He was a keen photographer at school, but gave up at the age of 18 or 19 and only returned to the hobby six years ago.

"Being dyslexic, you have to push yourself. It makes you quite determined," says Paul.

Simon was also dyslexic. He was 20 when he was killed: hit by a van as he crossed the road.

"In some ways it does feel like a life wasted," says Paul, although his Buddhist beliefs have helped him come to terms with the loss of his brother.

Simon is not buried at the Rosary, yet it's somewhere Paul says he feels his presence.

"It's like having my brother there - it's not morbid at all. It's not as if he's a person that doesn't exist any more."

Paul feels the exhibition, which has already been on display in Bethnal Green, London, is a fitting way to commemorate Simon and Daniel.

"I wanted to celebrate both their lives: they both had quite an impact on the people around them," he says.

Rosary: A Celebration of Life, an exhibition of photographs by Paul Lynch, is at the Assembly House, Norwich, from Sunday October 8 to FridayOctober 13.