Haunting cemeteries seeking serene subjects


When Kristina Thorstenson was a student at John F. Kennedy High School in the early 1990s, she often took refuge in the campus’ darkroom.

“It was like my therapy,” she said at her first public show on Sunday. “I could get lost in the darkroom for hours.”

Ms. Thorstenson continues to use photography as a means of escape, taking photos at cemeteries and other quiet places on regular excursions. She is exhibiting 24 of the mostly black-and-white images of her trips at An Beal Bocht Café.

The photos range from a wide shot of an old church graveyard in Freehold, N.J. to a close-up of the interlaced pattern on a Celtic cross at The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. 

Ms. Thorstenson, a lifelong Riverdalian, said she has visited The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery countless times in recent years, often going on night tours offered at the historical site.

“I find it so interesting and cool,” she said. “I just have a hard time finding people who will go with me. People are like, ‘That’s creepy. You’re roaming a cemetery in the dark with a lantern.’ But it’s cool.”

The headless horseman does not make an appearance in Ms. Thorstenson’s work.

Other sites featured in her show include Hoboken Cemetery and the ruined Cornish Estate in the Hudson Valley town of Cold Spring.

One photo shows the wild environs of the estate seen through the glassless window of a dilapidated wall. The contrast invites ruminations about trasnformation in the key of  Washington Irving’s ghost stories.

A crowd of friends and family showed up for the opening of the show. Ms. Thorstenson, the assistant to the Riverdale Nursery School and Family Center’s director, has a reputation among her circle for frequenting cemeteries and other little-visited sites. A number of people at An Beal Bocht Café recounted giving her tips on where to find good spots.

Kristina Thorstenson, photography, An Beal Bocht Café, cemeteries, Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving, folklore, art, Shant Shahrigian
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