Monday, October 5, 2009

Concordia Cemetery

Although I haven't explored one lately, cemeteries are some of my favorite photographic subjects. I've visited several beautiful cemeteries over the years, but there is one in particular that really stands out to me. It is Concordia Cemetery in El Paso, Texas. This graveyard is rich in historical significance; however, what really appeals to me about Concordia is the amazingly vernacular sensibility of the place. Many--perhaps most--of the graves are handmade, usually by the families of the deceased, rather than by memorial professions. It is a cemetery of the poor as well as some of the most famous people in El Paso's storied past, and this really shows in the grave markers. It is a cemetery dropped into a brutal landscape--a punishing desert rich with snakes, scorpions, prairie dogs, birds of prey, squirrels, lizards, fire ants, and other creatures. It also has a history of crime; my husband (an El Pasoan) has always warned me about Concordia's violence, not only in the night, but sometimes in the day as well. Most of all, though, if you're shooting in Concordia, you need to beware of the sun. Even on a day that doesn't seem too hot outside the walls of the cemetery, inside Concordia you can succumb to heat exhaustion--or worse--very quickly.

I first shot a lot of photos in the cemetery back in 2005 when I had just got my first SLR, a digital Olympus e-300 (which I still have; it's a great starter camera). You can see those photos here and here. This is my favorite grave at the cemetery, and my favorite photo from that summer of taking photos in Concordia:

Guadalupe of Concordia (2005)

However, this past August I was able to go back to Concordia to take some photos with some Polaroid cameras. I am excited about these images, because they seem to evoke the haunting pain and beauty of this brutal place.

The Concordia Polaroids (2009)
Camera: Polaroid SX-70
Film: Polaroid Artistic TZ
view larger here

Concordia, Beautiful (2009)
Camera: Polaroid 104
Film: Polaroid UV/ID (expired)

The Chocolate Graveyard (2009)
Camera: Holgaroid
Film: Polaroid Choco80

Concordia is a place of desecration and crime, but also of love and honor. It's my favorite cemetery I've ever visited; I can't imagine a place that so perfectly mingles loss and sadness with beauty and hope. If you are ever in El Paso, you should visit Concordia Cemetery.

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