Cities of the Dead

Discussion in 'The Black & White Gallery' started by Clutch, Apr 5, 2008.

  1. Clutch

    Clutch TPF Noob!

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    New Orleans famous cemeteries are often referred to as "Cities of the Dead". Lafayette Cemetery located in the Garden District of New Orleans amid an air of musty aristocracy.

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    Built in what was once the City of Lafayette, the cemetery was officially established in 1833. The area was formerly part of the Livaudais plantation, and that square had been used for burials since 1824. The cemetery was laid out by Benjamin Buisson, and consisted of two intersecting roads that divide the property into four quadrants. In 1852, New Orleans annexed the City of Lafayette, and the graveyard became the city cemetery, the first planned cemetery in New Orleans.

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    The cemetery fell on hard times, and many of the tombs were vandalized, or fell into ruin. Thanks to the hard work of the organization "Save Our Cemeteries," there have been extensive restoration and preservation efforts.

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    Lafayette Cemetery has been featured in several movies including "Interview With A Vampire".
    The cemetery is also featured in many of Anne Rice's books.

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    What appears to be graffiti in the image above isn't that at all. It's actually where someone has very inexpensively noted the names of those buried in the crypt. It's not uncommon for a vault to be used again and again over generations. There is a general thought about New Orleans cemeteries: "There's always room for one more". The top image isn't some sort of sick joke. That vault is for sale as of April 4, 2008.

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    Above is pictured damage to the Lafayette cemetery. It's difficult to say if this is the result of vandalism or Hurricane Katrina. The part of New Orleans where this cemetery is located did not flood in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina but was subject to wind speeds well in excess of one-hundred miles per hour.

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    The first available burial records are dated from August 3, 1843, although the cemetery had been in use prior to that date. In 1841, there were 241 burials in Lafayette of victims of yellow fever. In 1847, approximately 3000 people died of yellow fever, and Lafayette holds about 613 of those. By 1853, the worst outbreak ever caused more than 8000 deaths, and bodies were often left at the gates of Lafayette. Many of these victims were immigrants and flatboatman, who worked on the nearby Mississippi River.

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    For some reason this vault fascinated me. The epitaph reads, "Simply To Thy Cross I Cling".

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    Standing at its gates, among stately homes that stretch back centuries, a visitor feels transported to an era when many of its inhabitants had yet to be interred within its walls; fitting, for the family burial ground of Anne Rice's best-selling vampire Lestat.

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    Yet more evidence of either vandalism or hurricane damage. This damaged stone, however, has been placed back together by someone. Though crude, a method is used to put large stones back together roughly in their original shape though it remains quite clear they've been damaged.

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    Lafayette cemetery is like many cemeteries in New Orleansin that the graves are all above the ground in tombs because the water table is so high. In fact, were it not for these vaults, the bodies would literally pop out of the ground. The stones are all a grizzled gray and many appear much older than they really are thanks to the high level of humidity that instantly ages the marble.

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    Entire families are buried in each of the small crypts, and visitors often wonder aloud just exactly how so many people are able to fit into such a small space. The answer is actually somewhat creepy - those with little money had no choice than to have the bones and ashes of an earlier deceased family member simply pushed aside so that a new corpse could fit inside.

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    So ends my photo essay of the Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans. The Crescent City is a seething, bubbling caldron of mystery, hauntings, ghosts, voodoo, pirates and all manner of strange and wonderful places that make New Orleans a photographer's dream.
     
  2. mdw

    mdw TPF Noob!

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    A lot of pictures, and some really nice ones! But too many to comment each and every single image...

    The only thing I noticed was that I miss some contrast in most of the pictures, they look rather flat to me. Did you do this on purpose?

    Interesting series though!
     
  3. Clutch

    Clutch TPF Noob!

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    Actually yes, I did stay off the contrast a bit. Some of the headstones and vaults were a glaring white and even slight tweeks to the contrast in a few tended to give the whites a "blow out" IMO.

    A bit odd for me as I tend to have an eye that leans towards a more "contrasty" print.

    All in all, converting digital color prints to black and white just ain't the same as a roll of Pan-X... but it's still fun.

    The temptation to post this in another forum in color was a very real one but I came here instead.

    Thanks for your honest critique and happy shooting, amigo!

    And you're right... this might have been better suited for the "photojournalism/picture essay" forum. I'll post a quick note to y'all when I get to the perfect stage in my life! LoL... don't hold your breath!
     
  4. Rolland

    Rolland TPF Noob!

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    I enjoyed the read & the photos.....Any night shots?
     
  5. Clutch

    Clutch TPF Noob!

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    Rolland, I wish I could get some night shots. The old cemeteries in New Orleans are almost all registered as National Historic landmarks/places. The hours they are open are often quite limited. Lafayette for example is open 8am to 2:30pm Mon-Fri only. St. Louis #1 is only open to the public from 9am to noon on Sundays. So night shots would require literally "breaking" into a National Historic landmark and the consequences of being caught are a) incarceration b) mugging... depends on who finds you first! lol
     

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