I love walking through the various cemeteries in New Orleans, Louisiana. There are always interesting sculptures to take a look at and photograph. Here I found an angel staring down in a solemn pose obviously mourning the passing of the person who they watched over. It was a warm (hot – around 95 degrees) sunny afternoon and as I laid on the ground and shot up towards the angel’s face there was a bit of light leak into the camera. I accentuated that a bit in Photoshop and then added a bit of a blur around the perimeter of the frame to emphasize the angel’s expression.
An Afternoon in NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana)
“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”
The ‘Angel of Grief’ statue first appeared in a Roman Cemetery in the late 1800s but has since been erected across the world. In New Orleans, the tomb of Chapman Hyams’ family is decorated with this stone. While walking in the Metairie Cemetery I sought this out as it has been featured in a number of movies throughout the years.
Weeping Angel (New Orleans, Louisiana)
There is a reason why these tombs are above ground and it has to do with the water levels in New Orleans. You see it is impossible to actually bury bodies in New Orleans without having them float to the surface during the flooding that occurs so frequently. Therefore, the early settlers needed to get creative in burying those who had passed so they created above ground tombs. And not only that but families can be buried together – as long as the previous person has been buried for at least two years. At the end of two years they will place the remains from the coffin in a special bag and move those remains to a different part of the tomb before moving the next member of the family in. It may seem morbid but it is actually quite practical to do it this way and ultimately winds up taking up a lot less space. Myself, when I go, hope to be cremated so I don’t plan to take up any physical space in the after-life.
I probably looked like a freak squatting down to take a picture of a post along the side of the street but I thought the colorful artwork on the horse tie (presumably for the big police horses that often parade the French Quarter keeping the rowdy crowd under control) was interesting and I wanted to capture it against the starkness of the grey and overcast sky in order to isolate it as best as I could. One of the oldest hotels in the city, the Court of the Two Sisters, and a fancy restaurant – Brennans – is right across the street if you are in town and want to check out this piece of street art yourself.
Street Art (New Orleans, Louisiana)
New Orleans, Louisiana is among my favorite cities in the world. Adding to that is that my wife and I got married in this church back on March 13, 2010. The last time we were there we got lucky with a touch of foggy weather one evening which led to an interesting element to add to a pretty standard shot of the St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the French Quarter.
Foggy Evening at St. Louis Cathedral (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Just off of Bourbon Street, in Jackson Square, they lock the gates up at night to keep people out of the park in front of the church so I had to set up my tripod outside of the fence and use my zoom lens to sneak past the slots in the gate.
It was a rough weekend for me as I dealt with a slew of emotions that I knew were coming but had no idea how to deal with. My father would have turned 61 years old this weekend. He passed recently though after a battle with cancer and he was my best friend so it was a really tough thing to not talk to him or see him on his birthday for the first time in 35 years. They say it gets easier and I sure hope that it does.
I hate death, but at the same time I am fascinated by it. I fear funerals, yet I enjoy going to cemeteries and looking at the headstones. In New Orleans, they have some of the most unique cemeteries in the country so I like to take a tour around some of the cemeteries when time permits if I’m visiting the city. Walking around a cemetery in Metarie (outside of New Orleans) I saw this weathered angel statue and was drawn to it. The peacefulness of the expression on her face was intriguing and I spent a few minutes looking at it and taking different compositions.
Angel (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Last summer I started reading a book by Randy Pausch – a professor who, dying from cancer, gave a speech about life/death that turned into a Youtube video and other media appearances and then ultimately a book. I thought it would help me understand what my father was dealing with but I was unable to finish it. I picked it up today as I straightened out my office and flipped to this quote…It really is the most important thing.
“The key question to keep asking is, Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have. ”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
Maybe Times Square in New York City? I’m not sure really if there is anywhere else in America where a two second exposure at dusk is going to catch as many ghosts as on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. In most places, say Chicago’s Navy Pier for example, a two second exposure would catch a lot of tourists sitting around but on Bourbon Street they are alive…bouncing from bar to bar with drink in hand. I truly love Bourbon Street but I only wish I was more sober most of the nights to remember exactly why??
The Pace of Bourbon Street (New Orleans, Louisiana)
“The first thing you notice about New Orleans are the burying grounds – the cemeteries – and they’re a cold proposition, one of the best things there are here. Going by, you try to be as quiet as possible, better to let them sleep. Greek, Roman, sepulchres- palatial mausoleums made to order, phantomesque, signs and symbols of hidden decay – ghosts of women and men who have sinned and who’ve died and are now living in tombs. The past doesn’t pass away so quickly here.
You could be dead for a long time”
— Bob Dylan
New Orleans Cemetery