Life and Then
It was very unusual for me to see pockets of cemeteries here and there embedded near living spaces or by the churches when I moved to the USA in 1978 at the age of 17. I always avoided them.
In 2010, the year I turned a half-century old, two of my friends organized a monthly photography event and kindly invited me to join them. Our first gathering happened in January 2011, at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, NY. That was the first time I visited a cemetery as a photographer and the only second time since I had moved to the USA.
Since that day, I have felt an almost gravitational pull toward cemeteries. Walking among graves has helped me to make peace with death, and cope with the passing of both my parents, brother, friend, cousin, uncles, and aunts in less than eight years. Almost as though the visit to the Calvary cemetery happened to prepare me for what was ahead in life for me.
A sense of absolute calm and mystery are residing in cemeteries that can't be experienced elsewhere. I find cemeteries to be sacred meditative places that calm my mood. By remembering death, I am reminded to live fully. I truly believe my experience at cemeteries has made me a kinder, calmer person, and less dependent on the mundane life that has surrounded all of us. As I read gravestone inscriptions, I wonder about how the deceased lived, their happiness and sadness, their age, and loved ones that had to bear the loss of a child or parent.
Life and Then is going to be a neverending project for me. There are many more cemeteries for me to visit, cultures to learn about, and stories to imagine. But more importantly, this work has helped me to cherish life and appreciate the circle of loving friends and family that have given so much to me throughout the years.