----- ............Cemetery Walk: An afternoon of discovery! Every stone has a story. And they are waiting to be told........... -----

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blog Interview with Douglas Keister

Photographer-writer Douglas Keister has authored and co-authored thirty-eight critically acclaimed books. He also writes and illustrates magazine articles and contributes photographs and essays to dozens of magazines, newspapers, books, calendars, posters and greeting cards worldwide.

Most of us, cemetery bloggers, know of him for his cemetery books: [1] Going Out In Style, [2] Stories in Stone, [3] Forever Dixie and [4]Forever L. A. His 5th cemetery book, Forever New York, will be published in the Fall. I hope he will continue to author cemetery books because they fill a void for those of us that love the beauty and historical aspect of a cemetery.

Doug was very kind to agree to this informal blog interview. Let’s learn a little more about him.

How long have you been a photographer-writer?
My first job as a photographer was in 1966 for the Daily Nebraskan, a campus newspaper while I was attending the University of Nebraska. My first PAID writing was when I photographed and wrote a bi-lingual children’s book for Sierra Club Children’s Books in 1995.
Why did you choose this career path?
I discovered the magic of developing film and printing pictures when I was still in high school. I just took to it. I chose to focus on books when an opportunity to photograph a nationwide book presented itself in 1986. Although I didn’t see it at the time, more book projects just came my way. Certainly I had to “pitch” those projects and go through all the machinations of making proposals, doing research and marketing, but it was something I was able to do. Unfortunately it is not a career path I wound recommend nowadays. Most people do not want to pay (or do not want to pay very much) for photography and writing. Still, there are enough opportunities to eek out a living. And I LOVE what I do and the people I meet along the way.
Your bio tells us you have authored and co-authored 38 books. What are the subjects of your other books?

Most books revolve around the subject of historic architecture (which includes cemeteries) and mostly residential architecture. Bungalows, Victorians, Spanish style, Storybook style. I’ve also done two monographs, two children’s books and a novel.
Going Out in Style was your first cemetery book. Why did you decide to photograph cemeteries?

I had done a number of books on historic architecture and realized little had been done on what I eventually called “America’s most unspoiled resource of historic architecture”: funerary architecture. Going Out in Style focused on architecture which eventually led to exploring funerary symbolism and sculpture.
What is the Stories in Stone Traveling Exhibition? And where can we find more information about it?

The Stories in Stone traveling exhibition features display panels illustrating symbolism and architecture. It is being managed by Lisa Lewis (the Victoriana Lady) at lisa@victorianalady.com. You can see details at http://www.douglaskeister.com/id14.html. scroll to the bottom of the page. [Note from Gale: Find Lisa on facebook at The Passion Projects]. 3/5 Edit: read new post on this exhibition.
Forever New York will be published later this year. Any plans for additional cemetery books?
I’d like to do a book on the best tombs of the world. It makes for some tough choices but I’d include a range of tombs from small unique memorials to the Taj Mahal (where I was earlier this month).
Who are your favorite photographers?

O. Winston Link and Arthur d'Arazien. Both were large format “industrial” photographers who meticulously composed and lighted one shot photographs.

Share with us about the glass negatives of African-American photographers Johnny Johnson and Earl McWilliams? http://www.douglaskeister.com/glass/

In 1965 at the beginning of my experiments in photography I acquired close to 300 5X7 glass negatives at a garage sale. I made some of my first prints using the negatives. Decades later I “rediscovered” the negatives and found out that most of them depicted the African American neighborhoods in Lincoln, Nebraska from 1911-1926. They are incredible photographs and I’ve been working hard to plumb their provenance and get the photographer(s) the attention they are due.
Canon or Nikon?

Nikon body. Fuji innards. I USED to shoot most things with a 4X5 Sinar.
Any tidbits of wisdom for aspiring photographers?

While CONTENT is king and composition is important what makes a great photograph is the quality of the light. Pay attention to the light. When possible photograph late or early in the day. AND find a good program to index your photographs. If you can’t find it, it doesn’t exist.
Thank you, Doug, for sharing with us!

Check out Doug’s books:

Author page on Amazon.com

Forever L. A.: A Field Guide to Los Angeles Area Cemeteries and Their Residents (2010)
Tao Tao’s Green Gift (Spring 2009)
Lincoln in Black and White 1910-1925 (Fall 2007)
Forever Dixie: Exploring Southern Cemeteries (Fall 2007)
Teardrops and Tiny Trailers (Fall 2007)
Grandmother’s House: A Visit to Old Town Beijing (January 2007)
500 Victorians (To Be Determined)
500 Bungalows (Fall 2006)
500 Cottages (Fall 2006)
Mobile Mansions: Taking Home Sweet Home on the Road (Spring 2006)
Courtyards: Intimate Outdoor Spaces (2005)
Silver Palaces: America's Streamlined Travel Trailers (2004)
Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Iconography and Symbolism (2004)
Going Out in Style: The Architecture of Eternity (1997)
Fernando's Gift (1995)
Black Rock: Portraits on the Playa (1990)
Driftwood Whimsy: The Sculptures of the Emeryville Mudflats (1985)

Books Co-authored by writer Brian Coleman
Cottages (Spring 2007)
Classic Cottages (2004)

Books Co-authored by writer Arrol Gellner
Ready to Roll: A Celebration of the Classic American Travel Trailer (2003)
Red Tile Style (2002)
Storybook Style (2001)

Books Co-authored by writer Paul Duchscherer
The Bungalow Basics Series (8 books from 2000 to 2004)
Victorian Glory in the San Francisco Bay Area (2001)
Outside the Bungalow (1999)
Inside the Bungalow (1997)
The Bungalow (1995)

Books Co-authored by writers Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada
America's Painted Ladies (1992)
Painted Ladies Revisited (1989)
Daughter's of Painted Ladies (1987)

Visit Doug at these links and on facebook:




  1. Fascinating, Gale. Doug has written some really useful books - thanks for sharing the illuminating interview with us.

  2. Oh...so I'm not one of Doug's favorite photographers? Boo-hoo...
    Doug's a really great guy and personally love his work. He was kind enough to write the forward for my book "Final Thoughts" coming out in the fall of this year. I am honored to be one of his friends and colleagues. Thank you Gale for the presentation.


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