A Taphophile’s View

In 2016, I attended a training course to become a teacher titled, ‘Award in Education and Training‘. As part of my assessment, I had to create and deliver a 20 minute presentation on any subject, so I chose to base it on my passion for graveyard and cemetery photography and explained why I’m a taphophile.

As soon as I mentioned to the group what my chosen subject would be, they were instantly intrigued, which meant that I had to deliver!

A Taphophile’s View of Graveyards and Cemeteries


A Taphophile's View of Graveyards and Cemeteries by Amanda Norman

A Taphophile’s View of Graveyards and Cemeteries by Amanda Norman

My fellow students came from all walks of life and not one of them had an interest in graveyards and cemeteries and they had never heard of the word ‘taphophile‘. I had an enormous challenge from the start to ensure that I introduced a taphophile’s view correctly and explain to them what inspired my hobby of graveyard photography, without losing their interest.


Is a person who has an interest in headstone art, graveyards and cemeteries and the word taphophilia describes the practice of a taphophile’s interest i.e. graveyard tourist, graveyard photographer

I provided a definition of my favourite genre, Gothic horror and why it inspires my photography.  I explained how great authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker based their tales on actual facts that inspired them, such as the 18th century mass hysteria that vampires existed and how mort-safes and watch towers were used to prevent grave robbers from stealing fresh corpses for the anatomy schools.  

The learners were hooked and throughout my presentation, I was treating them to my graveyard photography that was specially created for it.

The Dead Do Speak

I also provided them with a look at cemetery fashion throughout the centuries, with the sub heading of The Dead Do Speak. I paid particular attention to the use of Memento Mori symbols and how these were used as a reminder that death could be knocking at your door tomorrow. This was a message from the dead to the living telling us to live life now.

The Dead Do Speak

The Dead Do Speak Introduction

Headstone Symbols

Other headstone symbols were used to depict the status of the deceased and I also provided them with a look at the more common graveyard symbols, for example, the broken column, which means the deceased’s life was cut short.

This teacher presentation later inspired Amanda to create Headstone Symbols, a website to help other taphophile’s decipher the true meaning of headstone symbols.

Headstone Symbols

Headstone Symbols

Anyone studying to become a teacher will know that you have to perform an assessment during your teacher presentation to ensure that the students are taking in the information. My assessment finished with the ‘Dead Do Speak Quiz‘ and I built up the students confidence to have a guess at the profession of the deceased pictured in the memento mori image below.  

One student guessed correctly, but more importantly, each student attempted to decipher a particular graveyard symbol and they succeeded.

The Dead Do Speak Amanda Norman

The Dead Do Speak Amanda Norman

Dead Do Speak Event Speaker?

I loved every minute of my teaching session and I got so many questions from the learners that I did go slightly over 20 minutes. I still passed my assessment due to the questions being asked and the enthusiasm of the group. They didn’t want my teach to end, which is the biggest compliment I can take from the session.  

This has inspired me to want to deliver it again and I’m willing to become an event speaker at various themed events. Yes, of course I’ll be nervous, but it’s my passion and I want to share it. Therefore, if you would like me to attend your event, then please get in touch to discuss.

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