No, I'm not depressed, suicidal, or a Goth. No piercing, no tatoos. Happy, well adjusted husband and father of three. Drive a minivan. That said, I find funerary art beautiful, neglected, and revealing of those before us. Contemporary social anthropology. I must say that my chosen subject matter evokes very strong reactions from those around me. Pushes some buttons. My first clue that it might be art.
I first became interested in cemeteries after accompanying my pal David to Jimi Hendrix's grave here in Seattle a couple of summers ago. This past summer we trekked to Bruce and Brandon Lee's graves. Snapped a shot of David on the Denny family grave. (Early Europeans that settled and prospered in Seattle.)
Reading gravestones and attempting to put names, relations, and dates into place was something he taught me. I taught my kids and we dubbed it The Sobel Game. After I got my digital camera, my search for floral and fauna to photograph sometimes lead me to cemeteries. Many are nicely landscaped and well maintained. Quiet and green. Often set in a nice part of town.
Roadside memorials that mark traffic fatalities is my version of The Sobel Game. I'm fascinated with this tragic folk art. I stop and record what others never notice or choose to ignore. They're both personal and anonymous.
Another set of photographs involves pictures peering into mausoleums, especially the stain glass that is often in the back wall. I just shot a bunch of new pictures of stained glass in mausoleums in Colma CA, a truly fascinating place.
As boomers age, bury their parents, and prepare for their own death. As Americans embrace cremation and shift away from burying bodies. As families scatter and roots are ignored. Things change. I'm just here taking pictures.
I've arranged some of my earlier images into a screen saver, A grave subject (1.9M). I'm also shot crosses with Celtic knots carved in them. Crosses of Iona I believe their called. I've encountered them in East Coast cemeteries mostly. I've taken pictures of the detail work and made a small screen saver, Bouncing Celtic Knots (643K). B&W no less.
Death and the dead are unspoken subjects. In many ways more abstract and removed than anytime in history. A hundred years ago, death was commonplace and sex was taboo. Today, the opposite is true. These photos allow both of us to view our society's death art from afar, somewhat removed from personal grieving.
I just got back from San Francisco (3/99) where I had a chance to spend two mornings in Colma CA, San Francisco's necropolis. It's illegal to bury the dead in SF County, so they end up in a small town just across the county line. More dead residents, than living.
I'm a bit behind and more images than time to put them up. Bear with me and come back again.
mausoleum glass | signs of the times