Sunday, February 24, 2013

San Jose Cemetery Revisited

                                            These fragments I have shored against my ruins.

                                                           -- T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

As desolate -- and perhaps hopeless -- as the San Jose Cemetery appears in my previous blog entry, there are also touches of the human spirit evident around the graves.

Typically, as in many cemeteries, there are flowers and an occasional American flag.  At San Jose, the flowers are plastic -- in the New Mexico climate, fresh flowers wouldn't last long.


There are also the inscriptions.  These are obviously recent:

Besides the flowers and inscriptions, there are some unusual (to me) decorations that are clearly intentional -- beer bottles, rocks, and coins.

The beer bottle on this grave (and its twin on the other side of the headstone that you can't see) is actually affixed to the concrete covering the grave.  Notice also the coins lined up along the base of the headstone, and the rocks in front.  I don't know their significance, but they appear on other graves as well.  I also love the juxtaposition of Jesus and the car.

The most unusual grave site was that of a young Hispanic man who apparently was a boxer and died at age 20.  It was set up in the form of a boxing ring:

Note there's even a bench outside the ring for sitting and contemplation.

Old torn boxing gloves were hung from the ropes, and the young man's image was somehow drawn on the "floor" of the ring:

My friend Barry got the best shot of the gloves  (notice the pennies on the "canvas"):

Photo (c) 2013 Barry Schwartz

Here's my shot of a different pair.  The writing on the glove says, "RIP Pico.  We love you Pico.  We all miss you 'Perro'.  Your nephew, Chico."

And over in the corner, there's a single boxing glove, a candle, a small wooden cross, a rock, and an unopened bottle of Corona.

Shantih   shantih   shantih

Friday, February 22, 2013

"Walking Around the Teacup" at San Jose Cemetery

There's a phrase I've heard among photographers :  "walking around the teacup."  It means shooting something from every possible angle -- high, low, front, back, close-up, far away -- to find that certain shot that captures the essence of the thing/person/scene.

Last week, on a photo expedition with no particular destination, I had the opportunity to "walk around the teacup" when my photography buddy, Barry Schwartz, and I stumbled upon San Jose Cemetery.

It's located on the south side of Albuquerque, surrounded by junk yards, warehouses, auto body shops, cell phone towers, power lines, and I-25.

In stark contrast to the lush, well-tended landscapes of Boston's Forest Hills Cemetery (which I photographed a lot back in the day) . . .

. . . San Jose Cemetery is about 5 acres of mostly sand and loose rock; there's little vegetation other than insidious sandburs and a few clumps of prickly pear cactus.

Among coffin-shaped mounds of rocks and low, cracked concrete borders of family plots, grave markers are few and faded.

Around the perimeter, bones, feet, and feathers of dead chickens emerge from the sand. 

Not a pretty picture.

But in the spirit of "walking around the teacup," Barry and I spent about an hour trying to find that perfect shot.

The most prominent feature of the cemetery is a small, probably man-made hill in the center of the space with four crosses and the words "San Jose Cemetery" spelled out in rocks painted white and arranged.  It's about 15 feet high and maybe 30 or 40 feet long.

Obviously, it's the teacup here.  So I worked it every way I could think of, not always successfully.

Eventually I got some interesting stuff.  Maybe not the perfect shots, but I like them:


And here's how I got that last shot (above) -- that's me over there on the left, in case you can't tell.  Sometimes you just have to lay out for the shot:

Photo by Barry Schwartz

A few days later, I went back to the cemetery by myself at sunset, and walked around the teacup again in different light.

I even took some night shots, strangely lit by the argon streetlights along the Interstate:

Here's my favorite.  I was flat on my back to take this one:

If you'd like to see these and other San Jose Cemetery photos in larger size, go to my Todos Juntos Photography website by clicking here.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Meeting Ania

On December 29, we became grandparents for the first time, with the birth of a daughter to our older son, Owen, and his wife, Pam.  Her name is Ania (pronounced AHN-yah), and of course she is beautiful.

Pam's parents live nearby, so they were able to help out in the days immediately following Ania's arrival.  We visited by Facetime and Google Hangout, but didn't get to meet her in person until two weeks ago.  And a wonderful meeting it was!

Photo by Owen Ozier

At age 4 weeks, Ania was still mostly in the mode of random hand/arm/leg movements, and her visual focus was intermittent and brief.  But even in the course of the five days we were there we could see her control rapidly developing, and her focus and attention span increasing.

In the meantime, we had wonderful hours of talking, sleeping, diapering, crying, feeding, bathing, and cuddling.  

And in addition to the joy of a new life, we had the joy of watching our son and his wife becoming parents.  They are doing a great job!

Of course, with my penchant for photography (and her parents' and other grandparents' as well), Ania is destined to be photographed vastly more often than we of my generation were, and even more often than our boys were as they grew up.  

Photo by Hank Jakiela

So I hope you will bear with me if, from time to time, you encounter more stories and photos of Ania in this space.

If you'd like to see more of our first days with Ania, you can go to my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.