Clicking @ Oakland Cemetary

Though I was in love with photography from an early age, I didn’t take my first photography class until during my senior year of high school.  Our class was divided in two parts: black and white film and the darkroom for the first half, and digital and Photoshop for the second half.  Thus my love affair with silver began on a spring day in 2005.  Later that quarter I shunned digital and wouldn’t give it a fair shake for another seven years.

Now I click both film and digital but my preference is, and always will be, for black and white film.  To answer two questions repeatedly asked of me this past weekend at the Texas Reds Showcase: Yes I develop the film myself and I print in the darkroom too.  🙂

Another question I was asked frequently was “Where does one even get film nowadays?”  Well I’m from Seattle and we have a store in downtown called Glazers Camera that sells various brands of black and white (as well as color) film straight from the freezer.  But seeing as how I’m not at home, I order from two suppliers: B&H in New York and Freestyle Photographic in California.  Both are comparable as far as pricing but I think that B&H has better shipping rates.

My film is ordered and should arrive next week, but in the mean time I’m seeing interesting scenes and my shutter finger gets to twitching.  So sometimes I use my digital when I’m “scouting”, to get a feel of how I might best approach the subject.

Many artists’ personal experiences and beliefs affect their art.  Even if they’re not drawing from it directly it will always be, at the least, an unconscious influence.  I often joke that I have a slight obsession with things that are vintage or antique, broken or dilapidated and I feel part of that has to do with the textures created by things that aren’t shiny, new and pristine.  But also one of the main tenets of my belief system references impermanence.  So if I’m truly honest, I’m sure that affects what intrigues my eye.  With my patina obsession also comes a strong interest in things of a historical nature.  This is one of the reasons why I wanted to create in Navasota.

With all this in mind it would seem that a natural place for me to start photographing would be the historic cemetery on the edge of town.

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Now please note that over my 4 years of college, I spent many a photo class critique viewing my classmates pictures of graveyards.  It’s been done, I get it.  I’m 95% sure that I won’t be spending the next 6 months creating images of headstones. I’m just exploring a new place and trying to stay open to interesting visual opportunities wherever they may be found.

And I found some!  Specifically the dead trees in the cemetery.  They were marked with an orange x in a circle to be cut down at a later date.  At risk of fulfilling the moody artist stereotype, I must say it made me quite sad.  I’m already a treehugger from way back but what I mean is that a graveyard, by definition, is where the deceased exist.  Why can’t deceased trees exist there too?  Probably because dead trees add to the already unsettling feel of graveyards.  But seriously, it got me thinking, where are dead trees laid to rest?

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Anywho I just hope my film arrives before they’re cut down so I can go back and document them properly.

Besides that, many of the headstones on the main path into the cemetery are the key people in the town’s history.  I found the owner of our house as well as many who have streets named after them.

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As I ventured toward the back, I began to see many damaged and forgotten headstones.  The very meager gravemarkers lining fence made me think of the saying about death as the “great equalizer” and how untrue this seemed in that moment.  Yes, everyone laid to rest here is deceased but based on their headstones (if there is one) their social standing seemed quite evident.  Is their name etched in marble or crudely written in the cement before it dried?  Is their plot kept up or so grown over that one might not even know it was there?

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One part of the cemetery that stood out to me was a gated area close to the center.  As far as a could tell, it was a resting place reserved for people of Jewish descent (so deduced because all of the headstones donned Stars of David).  It was there I saw these three graves leaned towards each other.  I’m sure it was a landscaping issue but the visual touched my heart but it seemed like the deceased desired to be closer to each other.  I liken this image to a posthumous family portrait.

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I continued to walk and click until the heat got the better of me and headed back to the Horlock House.

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Oakland_Cemetary-6 Oakland_Cemetary-7I hope you enjoyed this post and the included images.  Hopefully it wasn’t too much of a downer.  I promise to be more upbeat on my next entry.  🙂

Until next time.

Peace, Love and Photography.

Drea

P.S. I saw horses while I was walking back.  Hopefully this makes it all better.

Horse

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