The University of Newcastle's Genevieve Graham is studying what Novocastrians leave at gravestones and why.
The fine arts student is three years into her PhD on the topic. She says, however, she has been fascinated by graveyards for many years.
"I am one of those people who go on holiday and hang out with the dead because cemeteries are beautiful places," she said.
In particular, Ms Graham is interested in the tributes we leave to loved ones at cemeteries.
"I really wanted to document them to see how they've changed over time and how that's reflective of our changes in approach to death," she said.
"The thing I am most interested in at the moment is the change from leaving natural flowers to plastic flowers and longer lasting plants like cacti.
"I think that's a really interesting shift, and indicative that we're not wanting to spend as much time at cemeteries. We want to pay our respects and leave something that will last.
"It's a beautiful thing driving past Sandgate Cemetery and Thornton Cemetery at night and all the little solar lights are popping up in the cemetery.
"Those and fake flowers are the two things people are consistently leaving."
During her studies she has noticed an increase in customised headstones.
"I think we're getting more interested in letting the deceased's personality shine," Ms Graham said.
"Some cemeteries don't love having a lot of items left on graves, for practicalities and maintenance. A way around that is doing 'vibrant iron gravestones'.
"They're printed head stones, that are as colourful as anything with an image of the deceased, and all these embellishments.They're a particular type of grave I've seen popping up."
Her research involves comparing today's grieving practices to those of the Victorian era when, Ms Graham said, many conventions around death, such as wearing black, were established.
One of the big changes is how people engage with cemeteries.
"People in the 1800s visited cemeteries for their beautiful gardens and their walks," she said.
"They were, and still are, places of history and culture and a wonderful way to escape the rushes of daily life.
"I'm seeing with the state of graves and what we're leaving that we're not wanting to spend as much time with the dead," she said.
"I think being surrounded by death raise questions, about our own mortality and we want for own death, and their often very difficult conversations to have."
Ms Graham will show an exhibition, based on her research, at Sandgate Cemetery on May 26.