Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Graveyard Shoot

The first graveyard I visited is called Cypress Grove. It is very simple to get to. Peach and I took the street car all the way down to the last stop and there it and a few others were. It was the only one open at the time. Let me tell you, these graveyards are nothing like Minnesota's graveyards! The 'Cities of the Dead' mimic the small skinny houses in neighborhoods of New Orleans because of the house like tombs and even street names. They are massive, so I am guessing that is the reason for the street signs inside the graveyards. The tombs and burial sites are above ground because of the high water table. If they dug too deep, the caskets would actually float and/or come back up above ground. They used to try and put heavy stones over them, but during any flooding they would just pop back up out of the ground. Most recently this had occurred during Katrina. The damage to some of the tombs is still very evident. Also, the majority of tombs are filled with numerous family members. Sometimes, if it is a small singular tomb, made for one person, multiple family members can still be put into that same tomb. This can only be done if the previously deceased person had been dead for at least two years. Then their remains are put into a special burial bag and put to the side of the inside of the tomb while the newly deceased person replaces their spot. If the two year rule can't be met, the graveyards have temporary holding vaults.

Unfortunately, my first graveyard visit was cut short due to closing hours. But, I will be returning to shoot more this next week. I will also be shooting at several graveyards across the streets from this one, and at the most popular Saint Louis No. 1 and Lafayette No. 1 graveyards as well during the week.

These are a few favorites from Cypress Grove Cemetery

Katrina Tour with Dian Silva

This tour was the only guided city tour I have ever been on. It was very interesting to listen to Dian Silva, who was also the bus driver, talk about her first hand, before and after experience with Katrina. She grew up in New Orleans and has lived here her whole life, so she knew what she was talking about. Fortunately, she wasn't just some random hired person, which made it even more advantageous for us. We traveled to see all the important places that were affected by the flooding. It was really heart wrenching to see all of the destruction and all the homes, businesses, schools, police stations, and firehouses still not repaired to this day. However, it was very inspiring to see some people that have returned and fully restored their homes. We drove past one man's home that he had repaired himself, and he was sitting out front waving and smiling at us as we past. It was the worst when we were driving by the 9th Ward. It is really hard sometimes to not think like a photographer or artist and see beauty in anything, like this destruction. I think in our case it is ok because we don't have bad intentions when taking the photos. Like in the film The True Meaning of Pictures with Shelby Lee Adams, he had this intent to show the beauty in something that is normally not known as beautiful. Like the music here, bringing the city to life and invoking hope, I hope my photos do the same, and not the opposite like some of Adams's photos did.

Sunrise Shoot in the French Quarter

We started out on the Mississippi River. The clouds lined the horizon making the reflections on the water that much more stunning. As we moved on to the streets, the light just got more elegant, hitting the buildings, damp streets, and clouds just right. It was really fun walking around the empty streets, compared to the busy streets of the night before. The presence of light and somewhat void of people really let us focus on the landscape of unique architecture that belongs to the New Orleans businesses and homes. To finish off our sunrise adventure we went to Cafe Du Monde to try out the benyas, which were a tad messy but downright delicious! Even though its early time to get up, everyone should experience sunrise in the French Quarter at least once...and the benyas too of course.

Beauty on Bourbon Street

First night in New Orleans, so we had to go down to Bourbon Street of course! The moment we turned the corner off Canal onto Bourbon there was a street brass band that burst into play, but first starting up the crowd by shouting the famous 'Who Dat' song for the Saints. Everyone around was dancing and yelling. Even though it was not the super bowl, it really was how they say..the energy was intense and I've never seen a bond of strangers like that before. As we walked on we saw the mixture of colors, not only in the people but the many neon signs and unique New Orlean buildings too. Passing each stand, store, bar, and restaurant you could hear different songs and types of music. It was intensely stimulating to the ears and eyes, that's for sure.

Then we all went to the Royal Sonesta Hotel to watch the burlesque show at the Irving Mayfields Jazz Playhouse. I have never been to one of these types of show, but I heard how much fun it is too watch and listen to, so I was looking forward to accompanying Niky Czech as she shot for her project. I was without a doubt not disappointed! They had five different girls who did a few routines each, and a band that played on stage behind them. It was so much fun to shout and interact with the dancers. It was not like a strip club though. It was much more classy and more about entertainment, the girls dance skills and ability to work the crowd. Even the singer was interacting with the crowd. Each one of the dancers took their turns, dancing to different jazz songs, and each time in a new costume. The outfits were beautiful and some even extremely detailed and had feathered fans to match. These girls really know how to work a crowd and I absolutely would recommend checking out this specific place if you haven't yet, or on your next trip to NOLA. Check out Niky Czech's photos too!

Friday, September 24, 2010

NOLA - Concept Update

For my photographic essay I will be shooting the above ground graveyards, and hopefully people that work there and people visiting too. Another part of my project is to compare the graveyards in New Orleans, LA and Rochester, MN. If there is a funeral happening in both cities while I am shooting I will be documenting that as well. What inspired me to take on this subject is New Orleans funerals are more of a celebration and a happy occasion than what us Minnesotans experience. Not only is our traditions different, the landscape is too. I have been to a lot of cemeteries in MN, and unfortunately a lot of funerals; doing this project will have a personal effect on my negative and unappealing views and feelings on death in general as well. Sharing this with people will hopefully change their view too.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rochester Graveyards Update

Oakwood Cemetery
Rochester, MN

Oakwood Cemetery
Rochester, MN

Oakwood Cemetery
Rochester, MN

Oakwood Cemetery
Rochester, MN

Quarry Hill Cemetery
Rochester, MN

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

NOLA Shot List

1. Graphic shots of details on tombs
2. Time Worn and new tombs into diptychs
3. Inside tomb looking out if possible, diptych with outside of tomb
4. Worn Lettering
5. Wide Shot of cemetery entrance
6. Long shot of row of tombs
7. Single shots of tombs put into triptych or diptych
8. Volunteer tour guide giving tour
9. Detail shot of things left by loved ones
10. Trees incorporated with tombs
11. Human presence(movement within the graveyard)
12. Shot from inside nearby building looking out at graveyard

NOLA Contact

Save Our Cemeteries, Inc.
Contact: Laura Williams
Laura Williams is a volunteer at Save Our Cemeteries, which was founded in 1974. She works at the office and gives tours as well. The tours at held at the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 as well. I plan on going to the Lafayette Cemetery, which Laura informed me that it is located in a more upscale neighborhood and is still actively used. It is also among the earliest above ground burial sites dating 1833. The meeting place is at Washington Ave. Gate 1400 block of Washington Avenue. The tours are one hour long and cost $10. Tour manuals are also $10. The tours are all guided by volunteers and start at 10:30am and end at 11pm. However the cemetery is open to the public from 7:30am-2pm.

Because of time issues, I might not be able to get an interview with the guide, but Laura said that I can come by the office and interview with her further, Monday, Wednesday or Friday between 9am and 3pm.