Streeterville man’s new book tells history through the cemetery

(Published April 29, 2019)

By Jesse Wright, staff writer

Streeterville photographer and author Larry Broutman knows a thing or two about cemeteries.

His newest book about the city’s cemeteries, “Chicago Eternal,” in April was awarded a silver award in the regional book category by the Independent Book Publisher’s Association. .

For Broutman, cemeteries aren’t maudlin but rather they are instructive.

“The history of Chicago can be quite well told by walking through the cemeteries and looking at Chicagoans who have passed away,” he said.

His previous book, “Chicago Monumental,” focuses on the city’s monuments. After that book was published, Broutman said he began thinking that many monuments are in cemeteries. So, he went searching.  

“Some of the monuments were done by world famous sculptors,” he said. “I had been in a couple of cemeteries when I realized, ‘Wow there are some pretty incredible stories there.’”

So, he began to tell those stories.

His research took him to over 30 cemeteries across Cook County and when he wrapped up, he had 300 stories.

“It’s a hefty book and a time consuming one, but I am retired,” he said.

Before going into a cemetery, Broutman explained he talked with the keeper first.

“I always was careful about the respectful aspect of it and first I consulted the cemetery staff and told them what I was doing, and I asked them if photography was OK,” he said.

Broutman said almost every cemetery was fine with the project as he set about taking photos of grave markers, monuments, tombs and war memorials.

Streeterville residents might already be familiar with Broutman’s work as it adorns some of the walls of the Lurie Children’s Hospital. Broutman said he’s been an avid photographer for years, and he has travelled through Africa taking nature photos.

Several years ago, the Lurie Hospital asked him to take photos of Chicago scenes, so he mixed them together with his African photos. The result included  a tiger lying in the flowers along Michigan Avenue and he replaced the horses on a horse drawn carriage with zebras. Now these photos decorate the Lurie’s walls.

The project also sparked another interest, photographing the city.

“Once I did that I couldn’t stop,” he said. “I spent another year taking Chicago scenes all over the city.”

Then, of course, he moved on to the grave yard.

“Chicago Eternal” is available at Amazon.com for $43.25.

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