Asta Ostrovskaja, a Lithuanian artist from Vilnius, has an interesting hobby. For five years, she has been photographing pet cemeteries in different countries.
Asta recalls the first dog tombstone she ever saw. It was in an illegal pet cemetery in Vilnius and had the inscription “Forgive me, Aras”.
“These few words made me very emotional. They conveyed mourning and pain so pure, you don't always feel that in people's cemetery,” she says.
She then started taking photographs of pet cemeteries and has visited them in Latvia, Belarus, Russia and the US.
She says they can be quite diverse. The one in Vilnius, Karoliniškės, is a spontaneous site that sprang up without planning.
“People have built infrastructure themselves, marked paths with old can lids. Tombstones are made of old radiators or scales,” Ostrovskaja says.
The pet cemetery she saw in Latvia is much more monumental, she says, with huge marble or granite tombstones not unlike those on top of human graves.
While visiting pet cemeteries in different countries, Ostrovskaja explores how differently people can relate to their deceased pets.
“In Lithuania, there are many graves that I call 'single mourning' sites – people bury their fish or hamster, bring children's drawings once and never return again. But there are some stones with a burning candle every time I visit,” she says.
Over the last five years, she has taken many photos in pet cemeteries, some of them made their way to her online project called “Rex in Peace”.
Ostrovskaja's ambition is to visit pet cemeteries in all continents, organise an exhibition and publish her photos in a book.