Saturday, September 5, 2009

Faces From Long Ago and Far Away . . .

I've been meaning to get back to these images for quite some time now, they were done back in April the same day I went to the Paris Dog cemetery in Asnières, and on the way home made a side trip into Saint Denis to visit the Basilica where many of the kings and queens of France are interred. Before leaving Saint Denis I stepped into the large municipal cemetery there, and was pleasantly surprised by the large number of old tombs with works of art and photographs on them. These four faces are just a few of the photos from that afternoon, there are more. I was prompted to return to the subject of cemeteries by a lovely post over at SP's excellent blog Art Of The City today, with images from Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
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How I would have loved
To have had the chance
To just talk for even a short while
With some of the people
Who are long gone
But who live on
As photos on gravestones
Quiet beauty shining
From dark eyes
Long closed
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And if you are looking down
From somewhere far away
Know that I stopped a moment
To linger at your grave
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35 comments:

@eloh said...

Touching, and I like your poem.

Selina Kingston said...

Was that your poem, I loved it. i've never been sure about photos on graves but these old ones are amazing

The Sagittarian said...

Amazing eh? Did you feel like they were watching you, begging to be dug up and let live again?
I don't think I'd like my photo on my grave, too many people I know would draw moustaches on me!

jeff said...

Ciao Amigo !
J'aurais bientôt un post qui aborde un lieu comme celui que tu proposes... mais j'avoue que j'ai toujours du mal avec ce genre de photographies ! Quant à la motivation qui t'anime.. total respect ! Mais bon !... Je ne sais pas quoi trop dire à la vision de ces photos ! Et bien rien !...
Si,... il faut que je te le dise ! Peut-être quelque de chose au sujet de l'anonymat dont ces personnes sont retirées si sympathiquement par toi Owen... Si elles avaient sû que des années plus tard des personnes dites internautes les regarderaient dans les yeux ! ! !...
Voilà c'est dit... mais tu peux certainement m'éclairer !
Ciao Amigo ! Au fait... la piscine de curaçao donne des idées aux voisins ! Il y a maintenant des olives qui flottent à la surface dde l'"eau" et beaucoup grignottent quelques cacahuettes avant de plonger ! Non mais !... N'importe quoi ! ! !
Ciao Pixelpote (TM)
A plus + !...:-)))

Steve said...

Quietly, pleasantly, pleasingly sad...

Gaia said...

I do that sometimes, stop and look at their photos. Wondering how they led their lives and how they died. Did anyone come by to visit?

They are probably smiling down from the heavens and saying 'thank you'

Jill said...

I'm intrigued by the girl with the leopard scarf...What an intense, direct gaze she has.

Jill said...

I'm wondering what these are made of...Are they photographically printed onto metal? Painted onto porcelain? I'm surprised they haven't faded to unrecognizable blurs by now, with the sun and rain on them.

Karen said...

I love old photos from way back when and buy them up when I find them at the flea markets or antique stores. I use copies in my collage work but wonder what their lives were like.

louciao said...

Haunting images that encourage us to ponder our own mortality and the sort of memories we may leave behind in the minds of others.

And what of our own memories? Do we depart with them intact and recalled? Or are they completely wiped out and forgotten, having become meaningless and irrelevant, either in the face of a new life after death, or in the complete oblivion of non-existence. And after how many generations is the story of one's life forgotten, if it was ever known; if it ever mattered to anyone.

At least with these grave photos (no one is smiling!) new "memories" of the deceased can be elicited in viewers as they guess at the life the departed might have led.

Such are my ponderings as I deal with a well-deserved hangover. Last night's memories involve Montreal smoked meat after midnight, Corona & blueberry beers, plus a few glasses of Pinot Grigio celebrating the daughter's visit home & rendez-vous here with her new Nashville beau. They've been assigned the responsiblity of returning with fresh-cooked lobsters for supper tonight. I hope I'm up to it. ;-]

TechnoBabe said...

The images are even lovelier with the signs of aging. Very nice series of photos.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Lovely poem. I like the French tradition of photos on graves. It makes the incumbents come alive, as it were, but in the best sense.

Or rather, you get more of a sense of them and their lives immediately have more resonance.

I believe strongly in posterity.

Catherine said...

oh these are really evocative...great shots and yes I liked that recent post on Art of the City too...thanks

Nadege said...

Very touching and sad Owen!

robert said...

'Upon grave stones, beautiest of roses grow.'
Thank you also for reminding me of
Père Lachaise, last seen 18 years ago.
A life filled Sunday to you.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Those are so lovely. The picture of the child is especially heartbreaking. What a great poem to go along with the images.

Jo said...

When I was a little girl, my father and I used to stroll through the cemetery at the end of Josephine Street in Port Alberni. It was beautiful kept, and each grave was surrounded by white pebbles. I used to read the tombstones and think, "Those are people who once lived and loved and walked the earth." It is so interesting to see the photographs on these graves, and to see the real people they were, especially the child. And the poem is perfect.

I would love to see more of these pictures.

Dedene said...

Whenever I see pictures on the headstones, it makes me shiver. Those people were all way too young to die.
Lovely poem!

clo said...

howdy owen......
c'est beau et en même temps ça me trouble...une étrange sensation...
je partage un peu l'avis de jeff...
les voila victimes eux aussi de notre vie moderne...malgré eux ils sont rentrés dans le monde virtuel...
apres le monde spirituel...ça en fait des aller retours...:o)
un bisou owen...
passes une bonne semaine...et pas de problème pour le jet de salive...tu es bien sur pardonné...
ça m'a bien fait sourire..:)
bye..

Roxana said...

Owen, it is aching, and achingly beautiful, i can't even try to deal with it... i have to turn my face away, those eyes -

"...for photography
does not create eternity, as art does, it embalms time, rescuing it simply
from its proper corruption."

André Bazin, "The Ontology of the Photographic Image"

Martin H. said...

Each expression seems to say 'this is who I was'. I'm not sure that I have a photograph of me that makes the statement so strongly.

Fascinating sequence.

Margaret Pangert said...

These women and child were so beautiful and compelling in life. I'm sure those photos helped family members make emotional connections when they visited the graves. Now, years later, we walk through these cemeteries paying our respects to those who have gone before. I think the remembrance of time past touches us in some way.

Nathalie said...

C'est touchant ces photos, mais en même temps je suis troublée par l'anonymat dans lequel tu rejettes ces visages en nous offrant des images sans nom. Ca ne me convient pas très bien. J'aurais préféré un nom, des dates... on aurait pu imaginer le reste de leur vie mais le peu qu'on savait d'elles au moins aurait été conservé.

Voilà, c'est mon sentiment.

Loulou said...

Bonsoir Owen,
On peut dire que ce post ne laisse pas indifférent, enfin... il touche plus que d'ordinaire... je comprends ton hésitation à revenir vers chacun et chacune de tes "magical readers", à moins que ce ne soit le boulot-le boulot-le boulot qui t'éloigne de the magic lantern show.

Ces photos "gravées" sont touchantes en dépit de leur anonymat, même si je comprends le ressenti de Nathalie ci-dessus.

J'espère te lire sur une note plus festive ici bientôt !
Du côté d'Indiaphragme on célèbre le 200è lecteur, j'aimerais pouvoir vous envoyer un petit verre pour fêter ça !
A bientôt
take care
Loulou

Owen said...

@eloh, many thanks, and yes, touching; the past touching the present, the dead touching the living with memories...

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Selina, I'm not sure I'd call it a poem, but they are a few lines I dreamed up while these eyes from the past were gazing at me... a pleasure to have you drop in
:-)
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Hi Amanda, I can't imagine why any would want to draw a moustache on your portrait, when it seems clear to me that you are sweetness personified. And yes, there is an odd sense when visiting such places, I sometimes wonder if I'm going to turn around and find someone standing behind me... so hard to imagine that the beauty these four embodied could cease to exist...

Hope all is well in NZ and your cats' problems are sorted out...
=^..^=

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Salut Jeff... une des multiples raisons qui me pousse à enregistrer de telles images c'est que souvent on voit des traces de ces petites plaques ovales en céramique sur une tombe, mais l'image a disparue, ou est en train de disparaître... je les sauve d'une disparition totale. Mais surtout, et tout simplement, je trouve ces images indiciblement belles, et vrai ou faux, j'imagine des personnes qui étaient d'une gentillesse infinie derrière ces yeux.

Désolé d'apprendre qu'il y a des cacahuettes sur la surface de l'eau de ta piscine maintenant, et des olives... je n'aurais surement pas dû dire de quoi il s'aggissait... Peut-être si tu leur dit qu'en fait il s'agit de liquide de refroidissement pour radiateur de voiture ?

A bientôt !

Owen said...

Steve, succinctly said my friend...

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Gaia, ahh, so I'm not the only one... I rarely, if ever, see anyone doing photographs in the cemeteries I visit, but often see people stopping in to visit various graves and tidy them up. I'd like to think that they are smiling down from above, happy that someone took an interest in them, happy that someone wished to revive a memory of them...

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Hi Jill, she is intense, isn't she... I believe these are made out of porcelain, but how exactly they transferred the photos onto porcelain is not a question I've ever seen answered anywhere... I'm sure with a little digging the answer could be found, there must be people around who remember how it was done... if I can find out I'll let you know. These were particularly well preserved, I have seen, and photographed, many that had partially or nearly totally faded away... some retain just faint ghostly images...

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Karen, I love poking around in flea markets at old photos, although I rarely purchase any... but if you are using them in collage creations, I think that's a great way to keep them alive.

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Ah Lynne, and what apt and lovely ponderings you've had over these photos, and pertinent questions, which I suppose shall remain without answers until we ourselves cross the threshold back out of this life... is there anything else awaiting us after ??? I cannot say, but can only wonder at some who are so certain that there is another life... from whence springs such certitude concerning things impossible to verify ? Ah, faith... Well, call me doubting Owen then, for I'm not so sure about any of it. But whatever the verdict, I find faces such as these hauntingly beautiful, and would dearly love to go back in time and meet them...

In the meanwhile, I sincerely hope your hangover has cleared up, and that the lobster dinner was delicious...
:-D

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TechnoB, many thanks, indeed, the aging stone, the wear of sun, wind, rain enhances to poignant qualities...

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Laura, Many thanks indeed, in making these photographs I am indeed hoping that the images will resonate around the globe, and in some small way these individual's beauty will shine for posterity...

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Catherine, you are more than welcome, and glad you liked SP's blog, he does amazing work...

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Nadege, un grand merci !

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Robert, hopefull you will one day be able to return to Paris and Père Lachaise, for me it is a beautiful place, could spend weeks in there... so quiet and peaceful. And may you have a peaceful week...

Owen said...

Alyson, many, many thanks, I've really enjoyed the past posts on New England Living that included some graveyard photos. For me cemeteries are peaceful, beautiful places, nothing to fear in them...

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Jo, you have such wonderful memories, and write about them so beautifully, it is a pleasure to read you blog, and a great pleasure to read you here...

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Salut Dedene, indeed they do seem awfully young to have passed on, we are fortunate perhaps to have lived in a period where life expectancy has been growing. Not so long ago the average age at time of death was well under 50 in alot of places. Here I am sneaking up on 50 and counting each day like a day of grace to enjoy and live deeply... Don't know if you've ever heard of or perhaps seen the Australian film "Breaker Morant", but in that movie there is a line where Harry Morant says "You should live each day as though it were your last, for one day, you are bound to be right"...

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Merci Clo, cela me soulage... je pense comprendre ce que tu veux dire, mais en même temps je ne les vois pas comme victimes; ces images sur pierres tombales ont tendance à disparaître au bout d'un certain temps, j'essaie de les preserver d'un oubli total, dans le plus grand respect et humilité, en voulant partager la profonde beauté de ces personnes, leurs yeux, leurs expressions, les couleurs de ces images me semblent particulièrement belles, sombres, sublimes... J'espère sincerement ne pas faire le moindre mal en partageant ces images, c'est fait avec une émotion intense et pas loin de l'amour, c'est difficile à décrire, presque le désir de traverser le temps et chuchotter à ces personnes, "dormir en paix, on ne vous oublie pas..."

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Ahhh Roxana, you have floored me once again, the quote you have found here... comment dire, est une merveille, et parfaitement assorti... yes, perfectly appropriate, "it embalms time", just as the subjects of these images were perhaps embalmed themselves, and such a fate awaits us all sooner or later...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for this quote from Bazin, with whom I was not familiar... the Floating Bridge is a purely magical place, the intelligence that reigns there is ... beyond words...

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Martin H., a pleasure to have new visitors here, welcome, welcome. I'm not sure I have such a photo either, but then I'm not sure I want a stone erected in my memory, with or without photo...

Roxana said...

:-)

you are most welcome and certainly too kind to me, Owen. you make me speechless...

but here you can read the whole article, in french:

http://www.cecri.ca/jeu1/Couchot/images/bazin.pdf

Owen said...

Margaret, yes, I always feel strongly touched when strolling in such places, reminded of mortality. And I do wonder if there are still family members who come to visit still after decades have gone by...

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Hi Nathalie, je comprends ton sentiment, mais en même temps je ne pense pas que je me sentirais à l'aise en affichant plus d'information au delà de l'endroit où se trouve le cimetière en question, si vraiment quelqu'un souhaite savoir plus, ils peuvent aller à Saint Denis et trouver ces images... mais je t'assure ma volonté n'est pas de rejeter le memoire de ces personnes dans l'anonymat, au contraire, c'est justement de les préserver de l'oubli qui adviendra quand les images auraient devenues détériorées... pour moi c'est l'image qui porte le souvenir en tant qu'oeuvre d'art photographique, mettre les noms et les dates me semblerait un peu trop intime presque... bien que, peut-être je devrais, je ne sais pas... en tout cas, merci d'avoir partagé ton point de vue ...

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Mille fois merci Loulou pour ce petit verre, et pour ton message, d'une compréhension que j'apprécie profondement... En fait, non, aucune hésitation à revenir vers les "lecteurs et lectrices magiques" qui viennent rendre visite et exposer leur émotions et sentiments, tu as bien deviné, c'est plutôt boulot, boulot qui m'occupe en ce moment, la rentrée est plus que chaude, j'ai dû travailler samedi jusqu'à trois heures du matin dimanche, et après une rude semaine de travail j'étais kaput... puis pas mal de petits soucis en dehors du boulot en ce moment, la rentrée des filles à l'école, une voiture à réparer, la vie sociale qui reprend là après les vacances, bref, une conspiration complète pour faire en sort que ce weekend je ne reviens répondre que lundi soir... tempis fugit... time flies... merci en tout cas Loulou, c'est toujours un plaisir quand tu passes...

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Voilà, and once again, to all who have commented here so far, a big THANK YOU for dropping in and sharing your thoughts, one and ALL !!!

Owen said...

Roxana, a thousand "thank you"s, I'm off to read Bazin... déjà le début à propos des momies est fascinant !

:-D

Karen said...

Oh for the stories of these lost ones!

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi owen~ Yo probably won't see this p.s., butu I found tis poem bty Shelley ni an old dcrapbook that I thought was a propos:

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory--
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the beloved's bed;
And so thy thoughts, whe thou are gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

Owen said...

Hi Margaret, I did see and read, and I thank you very much ! Beautiful, yes, love itself shall slumber...

My sister in law from Beirut is going to be here soon... I think of her and Beirut each time I see you out and around...

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Hi Karen, yes, if only we could hear them, their stories... may just have to make some up, given the impossibility of ever knowing much of anything about them...

Not Waving but Drowning said...

Moving poem and fascinating post.

GG

Jilly said...

Like you I find graveyards fascinating. Your photographs are beautiful and your words so heartfelt and touching. So touching...