The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

“Ewwwww,” that’s morbid.” That was the reaction of a friend of mine when I told her that during our trip to New Orleans we visited the Lafayette Cemetery.

“Why would you want to go to a cemetery?”  Why indeed. First of all they’re unique for the fact that since New Orleans is built below sea level underground burial is a non starter so the deceased are entombed in raised chambers. Secondly, they are historic sites and major tourist attractions. Lafayette Cemetery opened for it’s melancholy business in 1833, before the city of Lafayette became a part of New Orleans. Known as cities of the dead, the cemeteries are laid out in a grid plan with “streets” or “lanes” that run at right angles forming city blocks of buildings just like many typical cities. Only these cities house the deceased. 

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One of the “streets” of Lafayette Cemetery

Cora and I visited Lafayette Cemetery, located in NOLA’s Garden District on a sultry spring afternoon. Once you step through the gates you’re in a different world; a stark one where the monuments, in varying doleful shades of gray, some in disrepair showing, the age of more than a century, contrast with the fresh green hues of vegetation.

As often happens, Cora patiently waited as I took my time taking photographs. That was okay though because reading the inscriptions on the crypts gives you a view back in time, back to 19th century New Orleans. While she wandered through these strangely beautiful and at the same time bleak streets I experimented between color and black and white images. 

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Above – One of Lafayette’s “street” corners in its natural color. Below – The same corner shot in black and white. 

IMG_5857 B and W

When I got home and looked at some of the images I thought it would be fun to experiment with the colors. Below is the same image as the above after giving it a bleak haunting autumn look. 

Cemetery color work

Strolling through the cemetery the eye catches the contrast between living green and deathly steel gray. I took some of the photos and just for fun enhanced the contrast.

Bricks in the wall

Above – Green ferns poke through the bricks in one of the mausoleums.  Below – A black and white image of the same bricks only with the green of the ferns enhanced. 

Bricks in the wall green highlight

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Above – A Lafayette “street” in it’s natural colors. Below – The image in black and white retaining the green of the vegetation. 

green highlights

Nola Cemetery 1

One of the few structures that we saw with exposed bricks

The cemeteries of New Orleans allow a view into the past.

Below: Mabel Shaw died at the young age of 45 but her epitaph reveals her to have been a good and decent person 

Mabel Shaw

5 thoughts on “Friday Fotos – NOLA’s Cities of the Dead

  1. Marie Rogers says:

    Great photos. Cemeteries can be interesting places, especially the old ones.

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you for the compliment. I suppose it would sound strange to some, particularly my friend who exclaimed “Ewwww,” but we’ve visited many including those on Civil War battlefields and in old Boston. As for the Lafayette Cemetery I wish that I’d hired a good guide. I think we missed a lot. Thank you very much for visiting my site.

  2. The NOLA cemeteries are extraordinary. Visiting them is such a surreal but oddly comforting experience…

  3. Scott Blake says:

    Rick Sebak has done several quirky PBS programs, one of which is “A Cemetery Special”, which showcases some interesting and unusual American cemeteries. If I ever get to Paris, I intend on visiting Père Lachaise Cemetery. Among those buried there are Chopin, Bizet, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison.

    1. Paulie says:

      Or you can just go to Colma on the other side of the bay and visit Wyatt Earp’s grave.

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