- Johnny Cash, from "The Man Comes Around" (2002)
Red Hook Coffee and Tea, a lovely establishment in my neighborhood. (This is the Queen Village section of Philadelphia, near Penn’s Landing. The venue is a few blocks south of South Street on Fourth.) The exhibit will run until about April 22.
I’m showing all new work, about a dozen framed images that I’d never printed before - disturbing work, things that have scared gallery owners off in the past. Luckily, the open-minded proprietors of Red Hook appreciate a wide variety of art and self-expression. The printing of the images themselves was a new experiment for me, they’re not just regular photo paper prints. I had these professionally made on various Canson archival fibre rag papers of different weights and surfaces - some even on watercolor paper. It is amazing how different papers can bring out the unique characteristics of an image.
So what are the “symptoms” of cemetery photography? Basically, you see death everywhere – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You want to photograph dead things. It helps you to accept your own mortality. People today don’t want to think about death, don’t want to know anything about it. We’re obsessed with living. Which is fine, I’m kind of partial to it myself. Typically if you become obsessed with a certain thing, you miss it greatly when its gone. Not so with life: You don’t miss it when its gone. Life allows you to be obsessed with it, and when you finally lose it, guess what? You’re dead! Or maybe I shouldn’t assume that you don’t miss it? How would any of us still among the living know that for sure? Gosh knows I’ve experienced enough weird stuff in cemeteries to believe there’s something out there we can’t understand. Not while we’re alive, anyhow.
Symptoms of Cemetery Photography
by Ed Snyder, author of "The Cemetery Traveler" blog
|"I Am Alive"|
That said, this blog posting could very well be the longest "Artist's Statement" ever written! Am I looking to make an actual, discernible “Statement” with this show? Not really. I could be all pompous and say something like “Time is the avenger, death the great equalizer,” but I simply present the work for your consideration. Draw parallels if you will. Some of the images are very personal, some a bit embarrassing, some frightening, but together they make a statement I suppose, of where my head is at right now. I apologize in advance if anyone becomes offended by the images. God will forgive me. It's his métier.
Other “symptoms” of cemetery photography:
- The experience trains you to compose photographs in such a way that the result cannot look like a snapshot (or “snapshoddy,” as I like to call it).
- It makes me wish that many cemeteries weren’t in such a sad state of disrepair, that we as a people would, should, show more respect for our ancestors, our history.
- The endeavor made me want to write about my experiences roaming around in graveyards, hence, “The Cemetery Traveler” blog, entering its third year (!) of weekly posts.
- Have I become better able to accept my own mortality? Am I afraid to die? Not at all, though I don’t want to be around when it happens.
- You eventually learn that if you make connections with people who know where the bodies are buried, the quality of your cemetery photography is sure to improve. The more you understand about your subject, the better you can capture its essence.
Opening Reception: Friday night
6 to 9 pm, March 22, 2013
Directions to Red Hook in Philadelphia
Red Hook on Facebook