They say there are two things in this world that are a given … death and taxes – we don’t care for either one of them, but both are intrinsic to life itself. Unless, of course, you’re part of the top 1% in America where taxes are a non-issue … but that’s a whole different topic of discussion now isn’t it? All I’ll say on that end is feel the Bern baby … feel the Bern.
I digress … back on topic of death. As the years go by, it’s something that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives – be it friends or family
around us. Some are deathly afraid of it, while some or are more accepting of it. I’m in the latter camp. I believe in the circle of life where at some point, you leave your existing being to another place – where that is who knows. There’s been studies around the soul and if it is actual ‘thing’. By ‘thing’ they define it as if something has mass (weight), it must be something and not just a non-tangible super being. If I remember correctly, this science is called
Noetic Science. Interesting theories to say the least. Truth or just some conjured up BS, who knows … death.
We as humans mourn over our dead like no other in the animal kingdom. We build shines – both large and small in scale to memorialize loved ones of the past. Different cultures celebrate the deceased in different ways either through an annual event or at/near the time of death itself. I’ve had the lucky fortune of witnessing a few whilst traipsing around Asia over these past years and am always fascinated by them. While in Bali, Indonesia, a village or villages come together to help bring their loved ones to the next level of “being” that begins in a funeral procession from the recently deceased’s village to a ritual area as much as a mile+ away. The deceased is placed in a sarcophagus inside of a colorful paper mache temple or buffalo-like structure in which village folks carry them through the village to the cremation site in a zig-zag like fashion (never straight) as to confuse the evil spirits. No one is sad or crying as they believe in reincarnation in the afterlife. It was quite the event while marching down the street with them and was a seemingly festive event – even at the cremation site.
During my time living in China, the Chinese celebration for the deceased was similar to that of the way the Mexican communidad celebrates and honors their ancestors – build a shrine to worship their loved ones into the next life. Offerings of food and money to carry them into and through this phase is much regarded
and involves a special day of reverence called Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead) – which occurs in late October. The Chinese equivalent, Qingming Jie (tomb sweeping day) is celebrated similarly and is a recognized also as a national holiday.
One major difference (that I experienced) is that contrary to Qingming, Dia de la Muertos is an openly happy occasion instead of a time of mourning. Equally, respect is paid, but the mood was much more festive where traditional dance, singing and Mariachi bands filled the area with sights and sounds of good will and good time. Pausing at many of the shrines that were put up, I asked if it was ok to make photographs – all of which were met with a happy ‘yes’. Respectfully making images of their Shrines was first and foremost as it was important to both pay homage to their loved ones, but also ask questions about the meanings behind certain artifacts placed within them. What I found were different reasons/meanings for most, with a few things such as food and money being constant to serve the deceased in the afterlife. It was a bright sunny day, perfect for this celebration, but challenging to make
images that portray a sense of peacefulness. To help convey this, it was only proper to underexpose by at least a stop or so and use the least amount of depth of field as possible to give a sense of isolation and solitude. I also employed a Lensbaby Sweet 35 lens which further tells this story. If you’re unfamiliar with this type of lens, I encourage you to check it out at www.lensbaby.com. Many don’t ‘get’ what this lens can do, but once you give it a go, it’ll always find a place in your bag – trust me. This lens tends to challenge seeing a completely different way and forces you to get creative in composing the shot. Mindfulness shooting is much more rewarding that mindless drive-by shooting, don’t you think?