Monday, September 5, 2011

Epiphany Long Time In the Making . . .

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Was up bright and early today, off to go visit an abandonned sugar factory not too far off (more on that later), and as I had a little time to kill before meeting a friend there, I found myself back in one of my favorite haunts, after stepping into a local cemetery just to look around for a few minutes. As usual, I was very quickly captivated by various works of art. In this first one, and I had no idea such a thing could be, I discovered that fake plastic flowers can wilt just like real ones. I had never observed this phenomenon before. Was it the heavy rain the night before that did them in ?
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Some other plasic flowers were looking fresh and vibrant . . .
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Angels were out in force . . . (and a song for them...)
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Across the top of one grave were scattered hundreds of small ceramic tiles, as though someone was getting ready to do a mosaic there, but never got around to it.
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One reason I feel it is important to make photographs in cemeteries is that many of the fine examples of decorative and memorial artworks are dispearing. The ravages of time. In the previous post there is a photo of a piece of ceramic decoration, a cross adorned with colorful flowers. This is what happens to such pieces after a season or two too many subjected to the elements.
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Old photographs also tend to fade away into oblivion after a while, often passing through transitional phases of decay before disappearing entirely, lost forever.
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With this next one, I had an epiphany, one of those miraculous moments of discovery ; never in a hundred thousand years could I have possibly managed to create an effect like the one produced by the weathering of this photograph which was printed on a slim ceramic plaque. You could fairly say I was awestruck.
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40 comments:

Virginia said...

Only you dear Owen could find and capture such magical images. One day, we really must see a resting place in Paris together. I want to see it through your eye.
V

English Rider said...

Bio-degradeable plastic flowers? Interesting concept!

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

They are magical aren't they, your images; seen through the lense of a poet. I like the old ceramic photo sinking into a mossy cushion.

Steve said...

Plastic flowers that wilt? I like it that even man-made objects cannot escape the effects of Nature.

louciao said...

The ravages of time hold their own beauty.

mythopolis said...

Great post. So provocative to look at all these images. All the stories each little fading thing suggests. Here, in the countryside, primitve 'markers' still appear along the highway. Usually painted wood crosses adorned with plastic flowers and the hand painted name of the person(s) who died on that spot in some kind of car wreck.
The ceramic portrait is haunting...the image not merely seeming to fade, but to be de-materializing. Dust in the wind dude, that's all we are...dust in the wind....

Owen said...

Hi Virginia ! Hope you are not getting too swamped by Lee down there where you are ?

It would be a great pleasure to find a day for a stroll through one or two resting places in Paris... Père Lachaise is practiclaly infinite in subject matter and artwork, and there are others of course. I love getting out in the countryside too and looking for old towns with old cemeteries, the older the better... Very best to you, and stay dry !

Owen said...

Hi ER, well, I don't know that they are bio-degradable by intention, but it does look like they are going to melt back into the earth. Frankly, I've always been fairly horrified by the notion of plastic flowers, I'd rather have none than plastic ones... Best to you and your frencher half, as another mixed country couple person says... I hope he is behaving himself and not getting more speeding tickets...

Owen said...

Dear Lady, moss obliterates all; I'm always fascinated by the way lichens and moss and then larger plants can take hold on solid rock surfaces and grow. As for the poet part, I believe my license is still in good standing with the BPL, bureau of poetic license... I renewed it not too long ago... :-)

Owen said...

Steve, most certainly, nothing will escape the forces of nature. And if we don't find a way out of this solar system, in another 4 billion years or so when the sun becomes a red giant, we will all be fried. But wilted plastic flowers were a novelty for me... I've seen them fade and fall apart, but never wilt... awful things that they are. And to think that there are people that work in a factory somewhere fabricating plastic flowers for a living... I can think of few jobs more demoralizing...

Le Journal de Chrys said...

Le temps qui passe et les traces s'effacent!

Owen said...

Dearest Lynne, ah, yes, beauty most profound can be found in all that time has ravaged... if one cares to see it...

And as you know how much I love to relate things to music, one song that expresses this theme rather well, imho, is this :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=if79C_aN3ps&feature=related

Stella Blue ; Grateful Dead

All the years combine
they melt into a dream
A broken angel sings
from a guitar
In the end there's just a song
comes crying like the wind
through all the broken dreams
and vanished years

Stella Blue

When all the cards are down
there's nothing left to see
There's just the pavement left
and broken dreams
In the end there's still that song
comes crying like the wind
down every lonely street
that's ever been

Stella Blue

I've stayed in every blue-light cheap hotel
Can't win for trying
Dust off those rusty strings just
one more time
Gonna make em shine

It all rolls into one
and nothing comes for free
There's nothing you can hold
for very long
And when you hear that song
come crying like the wind
it seems like all this life
was just a dream
Stella Blue

Owen said...

Hey Dan,
Yeah, those road side memorials always hit me, few things seem more cruel, just rolling along in a car, and then the next thing you know, someone's gone, gone for good. And just a marker on the road to remember where it happened. I can remember seeing (and photographing) one or two while in Pennsylvania a year ago. People leave objects as well...

And glad you like the fading portrait, you put it well when saying she seems to be "de-materializing", that's it, she's deconstructing, but I just can't fathom how it is happening so randomly like that, leaving black and white traces. Someone should invent an "effect" in Photoshop that could let this treatment be given to a photo, I really think it is one of the most beautiful and surprising and mesmerizeing things I've seen in a while. It is amazing how her features are still discernible with just the faintest of suggestion... If I blow it up even further it looks like totally random marks... Out of this world, she is still speaking to us from beyond the grave...

Owen said...

Bonsoir Chrys, effectivement, les traces s'en vont trop vite, en les photographiant, ceka permet de garder la trace, encore un moment... mais une fois que je ne suis plus là, est-ce que ces photos seront préservées quelque part, et ces traces avec alors ??? Pas surprenant cette expression finalement, qui dit que nous ne sommes que de la poussière finalement...

Belle soirée à toi

Laurie said...

Owen. Quite remarkable!

ρομπερτ said...

hauntingly beautiful indeed. the mosaic feels difficult to forget, as it seems to struggle itself to be finished. thank you for sharing !
please have a good tuesday.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Back to the present (out of that Purple Haze:-) the thing that struck me about your photo of a dissipating photo, is the way the graininess is continued outside of the frame on the stonework, black speckles on white; the stone appears to be affected by having the plaque attached to it. Curious.

Owen said...

Hey Laurie, thought you might enjoy these, and I see you've been rather far afield in your cemetery travels... keep them coming...

Owen said...

Tag Robert, indeed, I found all those scattered mosaic tiles very intriguing, mystifying really, I just can't imagine what happened there. I can't believe they were just scattered on the grave like that as abstract decoration, but why they were never pieced together... an unfathomable mystery lies there...

Owen said...

Milady M.,
I was wondering if anyone would notice that. I almost wrote something to the effect of that it looked to me like the fading photograph was taking on that form almost to blend in and camouflage itself against the dappled, spotted stone behind it, almost like a chameleon blending in with the background... very haunting that one...

The Sagittarian said...

Oh so true, you must capture them...quite a few of the cemetaries here have been damaged by the earthquakes and you are right about details being lost once that happens! You could say they wouldn't stand a ghost of a chance...

The Sagittarian said...

There is a cemetery just down the road from my (new) workplace which I keep meaning to go and prowl around, it is full of headstones with 'danger' tape round them. I thought as much. :-)

Owen said...

Dearest Saj,
I see nothing can shroud your keen vision and sharp wit, nor cast a pall upon your joyous spirit, however grave the situation, your smile comes shining through, and if you are thinking of getting out to dig in the local cemeteries, I guess you aren't too buried by work. Well I do hope you'll have time to undertake all that you wish to accomplish, but just be careful not to get wrapped up in all the danger tape out there, or kids that are not yours will be crying out, "Mummy, mummy!"

Be well good Saj...

Stickup Artist said...

I'm never one to tire of "cemetery things." That last image is brilliant; I've never seen anything quite like it!

:: Karine :: said...

comme je comprends quand tu dis que tu as été émerveillé owen adoré ! j'adore la dernière photo qui avec ses quelques milliers de points nous rappellent que cette femme est venue sur terre !
et je suis d'accord avec toi sur les fleurs artificielles : elles paraissent parfois plus vraies que nature :-) j'en avais fait la réflexion à edouard il y a quelques temps !
avec toutes tes photos tu deviens le gardien privilégié de ces âmes puisque le temps se charge de les faire disparaitre petit à petit !

louciao said...

Thank you for the song, BrOwen. I could hear Gerry's faint cry on the lonesome wind that was whispering through the empty shacks in the slough...

Owen said...

Hi Stickup, I'm thinking there must be some old "pioneer" era graveyards out there in the wilds of California... sure would love to see some scenes from them through the lens of a fine photographer... I'm just saying... I don't know who might be apt to take on such a mission... just thinking out loud here... Just seems like some folks spend their time at the beach watching surfers or at rock concerts and stuff...
:-)
:-)
PS Was going back through your archives last night, showing more of your wonderful work to la Grenouille; sure is some amazing art there. Even la Grenouille loves your ass(es)...
:-)

Owen said...

Chère Karine, bonjour... et oui, je pense que de toutes les ouevres d'art que j'ai pu voir dans de très nombreux cimetières depuis des années, ceci, cette photographie en disparition de la femme en chapeau, est parmi les plus extraordinaires que je n'ai jamais vu. La façon par laquelle ces points en noir et blanc se sont formées n'est rien d'autre que divinement merveilleuse. Je ne sais pas à quoi la comparer... le pointillisme de Georges Seurat peut-être... si l'on grandit un de ses tableaux, les images de Seurat deviennent vite des collections abstraites de taches colorées, sans sens, mais quand on prend du recul, les images sautent aux yeux avec une clarté surprenante... Voilà, peut-être on vient de découvrir un nouveau style d'art, inconnu jusqu'ici... le pointillisme de photos en décomposition sous effet de météo et temps ? Faudrait présenter cette théorie devant une commission nationale sur les definitions d'art moderne ?
:-)
Bon, pardon, je reve un peu là...

Une belle journée à toi Karine...

Owen said...

Ah Lynne, Lynne, I think jerry must have rolled in his grave to see his name spelled Gerry, but that's ok, he had such a big heart that he will forgive you, and I will follow his most kind of examples and forgive you too... I'll bet that slough was the perfect place to hear his echoes crying on the wind, and I'll be willing to bet there must be a blue-light cheap hotel nearby too...
Fondly, your little brother...

Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle... said...

Dear Owen, Amazing photography, as always. I feel better about visiting several cemeteries while I was in Nice last month ;-) Thank you for sending Catherine my way over the weekend. Can you believe the lucky girl has just moved to Cap d'Ail? Sheesh. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Deborah said...

Been way busy lately, Owen, and not visiting much in Blogland, but it's always a treat to come here and take a wander through a cemetery with you. I often think about you when I walk past the one in our village - I've never been in it!! Mostly because it's there, and I'm there, and I know I'll get to it one day, so there's no rush right? I hope this isn't something Freudian.

Quite a fascinating photo, indeed. Like the shroud of Turin, somehow...

Pastelle said...

Tu as raison, la dernière image est extraordinaire, et donne envie d'essayer de reproduire cet effet.
Pas gagné !
La mosaïque est originale aussi, jamais vu pour ma part.
Merci de ton regard original et tendre sur le temps qui passe...

louciao said...

Deer Owin,
Yoo are two kind.

Owen said...

Hi Veronique... I think one should always take a look in local cemeteries, history is visible in many small ways in such places, on a human level, on a heart moving individual level, and not the abstract ideals of history books. Not to mention the often searingly beautiful art to be found.

As for people who move to beautiful places on the Cote d'Azur, a pox on them... (I'm just JEALOUS !) Sheesh is right... some folks have lots of luck... I guess one must learn to love the luck that one does have, and I have plenty right here in good old Picardy... and it doesn't bother me one bit that St Tropez is not in my back yard... :-)

Owen said...

Hello Deborah,
Always delighted to hear from you, I confess to busy-ness also diminishing the time I can spend blogging, but it's funny, when I can get here, and out into the larger spheres, I'm constantly amazed at the exchanges, the contacts, however brief, however fleeting, and the lucidity, the warmth that comes through... for whatever reasons, there are a lot of wonderful people connecting through these blog mirrors... but it is not easy to stay in touch, or keep the contacts alive... one sometimes feels totally saturated. I guess what you are saying about the local cemetery not yet visited is sort of like all the parisians who have never been up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, it is there, they will get there someday... But I am a firm believer in today is someday... and tomorrow may never come. Go take a look, I encourage you, you may learn something fascinating about a local family, you may want to go track down a descendant still there and ask them about something you saw there, or it may just give you some food for strong meditation... and take a picture, send it to me... share your discovery...
:-)
Hope all is well with you between here and there and across borders...

Owen said...

Oh, PS, and Deborah, wonderful observation about the Shroud of Turin, I hadn't thought of that association. I better not let the Vatican know about this, or they may want to investigate the miraculous process here, and probably confiscate it... for the time being I may be the only person on Earth who knows where it is. I'll bet people walk by it often without even noticing...
:-)

Owen said...

Bonjour Sophie, ah, ce serait difficile de re-créer cet effet fascinant. Si j'avais ça dans mon "Photopaint" (je n'ai même pas Photoshop), je m'en servirais fréquemment je pense. Cela fait très plaisir d'avoir ta compagnie ici ce matin, si tu voudrait une tasse de thé, l'eau est encore chaude dans la bouilloire... (punaise, c'est dur à prononcer, bouilloire, pour un étranger immigré... :-)

Et oui, tous ces petits carreaux de mosaic... pour moi c'est le mystère complèt... vraiment bizarre, je n'en avais jamais vu nulle part comme ça... peut-être un carrelleur était enterré là?

Merci à toi, et content de te lire...

Owen said...

Biche Lynne, ewe quack mee up ! Am off to work with a smile today... thanks to ewe...

Lydia said...

As far as cemetery photography goes you are the master, Owen. I love your cemetery wanderings always, and this one had something so sweetly chilling about it. That photograph of the young woman whose eyes seem to be refusing to give into time taking them from sight forever...no wonder you were thunderstruck.
The one with "Souvenir" on the plaque brought to mind that term about bearing a heavy cross.
The droopy plastic flowers are bizarre.
And the pieces of tile just set my mind to whirring away. I think that is just one of the most mysterious and remarkable things I've ever seen, through your lens or any other.
Wonderful post.

Nathalie said...

S'il reste du thé chaud d'hier, ou plutot si tu as refait du thé ce matin, j'en prendrais bien une tasse pour discuter avec toi de toutes tes découvertes : ces fleurs fanées... en plastique, incroyables ! Et cette coulée de petits carreaux de mosaïque, et surtout surtout, ce portrait fané que tu as posté en dernier, quelle merveille ! Je comprends ton éblouissement ! Pour une fois je vais dire le truc le plus 'bateau' qui soit : "thanks for sharing !"