Last March 2010 while in New York I set to photograph the grave of Montgomery Clift as a kind gesture for an associate of mine who happens to be a fan of Monty but is also a paraplegic. I was pressed for time but didn't want to split without giving him the photo as I promised.
What most people don't know..which is what Ace Preston does know is that Montgomery Clift is buried in a rather unknown unheard of secluded Quaker Cemetery somewhere inside Prospect Park Brooklyn New York...now you know..
I was highly disappointed being that I always had the greatest respect for the Quakers since they practice what they preach especially when my elegant hero Robert Capa also my favorite photographer of all time died in Thai-Binh Viet Nam 1954 when he accidentally stepped on a land mine while taking a photograph in Indo-China but wasn't permitted to be buried elsewhere because he was Jewish. Capa's real name was Endre Erno Friedmann.
The Quakers responded to this by donating a burial plot for Capa at the Friends Cemetery in upstate NY... I always admired the Quakers for that but recently I became disappointed with them when I encountered a fence blocking my entrance into the Quaker Cemetery in Brooklyn . The fence and the sign at the Quaker Cemetery came as a surprise and shock to me in Prospect Park. The sign clearly stated that the cemetery was closed to the public and private property. There was nothing that could be done about it. The cemetery had a modern gate recently constructed surrounding the entire complex thus sealing itself from the outside world and my death camera from photographing the grave of Montgomery Clift. Later on that day I read from the Book of Isaiah, Job, Deuteronomy, and 2 Samuel 24:1, 1 Chronicles 21:1.. to my paraplegic friend who couldn't move and was saddened by the news.
Later that evening a mighty storm arose in the New York City area. A storm of immerse power and fear which torn down trees and ripped apart man made intrusions. The next day I decided after utilizing my sixth sense to visit the Quaker Cemetery one last time and perhaps attempt to get a photograph from behind a fence from a distance using a telescopic lens which I did not carelessly bother to bring the day before. David Peel once said to me.."any picture is better than no picture" which went against Matthew B. Brady's philosophy of photography that "the camera is the eye of history therefore one should never take a bad picture"...David was right.. Upon my return to the death spot the very next day..the beautiful Osage Orange tree which man no longer deserves to see, had fallen directly on the Quaker Cemetery fence flattening it and cutting a path directly to the grave of Montgomery Cliff. Sure there were Lacebark Pines, and Pignut Hickory..Tulip Trees..London Planetree..Sophora..White Mulberry..Bald Cypress (where I went searching days before for Edward Osterman's grave in nearby Cypress Hills Cemetery, who also had to change his name because he was jewish to Monk Eastman, the greatest New Yorker of all), and the Weeping Beech, the Japanese Red Pine, and Camperdown Elm but it was the Osage Orange which the gale force hurricane wind known as the northeastern dropped down upon the man made obstacle.. wood stronger than metal can bend steel..the fence crumbled leading a path directly to the grave of Montgomery Clift.A sadness did consume me about the tree being taken down but perhaps if left much longer on the earth it could have fallen another day on some innocent bystander like several trees had already fallen earlier that day, one killing an innocent man walking through Central Park on his way to work as a waiter.
Upon seeing the break in the fence I would have thought it was a miracle compelling me at that moment and according to my Afro-Cuban Catholicism to make a sacrificial offering to the gods but being in Brooklyn I was limited to what Pink Floyd would say were "several species of small furry animals gathered together in a cave and grooving with a pict" to consist of squirrels, raccoons, pigeons, and rat fink bastards.
I thought to myself and decided that even with this opening in the fence I should not take advantage of such a tragedy by further disrespecting the rules and wishes of the Quakers. I would find another way in.. on another day and attempt to get special permission from the Quakers themselves. They weren't the type to say "no" to a decent act...besides I had brought my telescopic lens this time but looking through the shutter I still couldn't locate the grave..
Instead I opted to listening to the song titled "The Right Profile" sang by Joe Strummer of the Clash which was written about Montgomery Clift.. on my ipod on the way to the airport.. "I see a car smashed at night.. cut the applause and dim the lights..that's Montgomery Clift, honey!"