Monday, October 11, 2010

A Vampire a Day... Vampire Sanctuaries: Cemeteries, Crypts and Crucifixes

Of Cemeteries, Crypts, and Crucifixes... 
Seven Tips on Photographing (Vampires) in the Cemetery

We usually associate vampires with cemeteries, crypts, and crucifixes. But why?

Tombstone surrounded by green vegetation. "The Nature of Death" lensbaby photography by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
"The Nature of Death: Lensbaby Photography" by Alina Oswald
Cemeteries are often seen as solitary places, as sacred places (in a way) at the fringe of Life, somewhere where Death begins. Maybe that's exactly the land where vampires live, a place where Life and Death interlace and overlap.

Crypts and coffins are reminders of our mortality. They offer a brief vision of our own mortality, thus facing us with its certainty, with the finality of our physical existence. In the same time, they make us feel closer to an unwanted Unknown--the vast Beyond that follows physical Life. Yet, as the legend goes, vampires feel very much at home in such settings. They usually sleep in coffins.

Crucifixes are often our weapons against vampires. For many of us, crucifixes are a symbol of our salvation. Our way Up when we leave physical Life and step into the Afterlife. Yet, how sure can we be that we'll go where we desire?...

Photographing vampires in their natural habitat, so to speak, in the cemeteries, is quite something else. So, I'd like to share a few tips from my own experience:
Tombstone surrounded by green vegetation. "The Nature of Death" photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
"The Nature of Death" by Alina Oswald

1. Bring some bug-repelling spray or cream, especially if you decide to shoot in an old cemetery, overtaken by vegetation. I got bitten while shooting vampires in the cemetery, and not by a vampire.

2. Sunlight would be great, but later during the day may also work for a photo-shoot, depending on what you want to achieve with your images. It's a good idea to bring somebody with you. You'll have the vampire with you, so that's a plus.

3. Watch your step, be respectful, and also chat with those who take care of the cemetery. Usually, they always have a few stories to share that may help tell your own story (through images and/or words). Thank them and maybe offer something in return for allowing you to take pictures. In addition, do respect their advice--especially when they tell you that pictures are not allowed.

4. If they are categorically against the photo-shoot, ask what parts of the cemetery are open to photographs and/or if they know of other cemeteries that allow photographs.

5. Be focused and, again, respectful to the place and those who rest there.

6. As 'interestingly dark' as it may sound, a twilight photo-shoot in the cemetery may not be for everybody. If you don't feel comfortable, don't do it.

7. Always, always be careful! As I mentioned above, it's always fantastic if you could go with someone, especially someone who's been there before, who knows the grounds and the people. I was lucky enough to have along with me a vampire who knew it all. Again, MANY thanks for all his time, patience, and generosity!

I leave you for now with a short excerpt from my "Southern Ghosts" poem about New Orleans cemeteries:

"To meet your ghosts and free your soul of pity
Visit the sacred grounds of Crescent City
Lay blooming flowers over its quiet graves
Pray to the Skies ... then leave.  Close the rusty gates."

Thanks for visiting,
Alina Oswald

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