When New Orleans first cemeteries were built and the graves were dug, they filled with water because of the high water table. Following a heavy rain, coffins would literally pop up from the ground even though stones were placed on top to try and keep this from happening.
Some people even tried drilling holes in the coffins to keep them from floating but this proved unsuccessful, as well.
Then, because of a series of epidemics that occurred in the 1830's believed to be caused by fumes and diseases that buried corpses released into the groundwater, an ordinance was passed that all buried dead had to be placed in a tomb or structure of some kind to keep the groundwater from being tainted.
A tradition popular in Spain at the time, the wall vault system was adopted. Most people were buried in these walls of vaults, above ground. But, those who had the means were buried in stylish family tombs which looked like marble houses.
Because some of the ornate vaults were even surrounded by iron fences and separated by narrow "streets", these graveyards were sometimes called "cities of the dead".
Only one person every two years can be buried in these family vaults. At that time, the body's remains are placed in a special burial bag, moved to the back wall, and the coffin is then destroyed. Should another family member die before this time, their bodies are placed in a temporary vault until enough time has passed for them to be transferred.
Multiple image photograph created using film, printed on durable canvas (no framing needed) or as signed limited editions on archival museum weight paper. Limited editions include minimum one inch white border for framing. Canvases available in all color options and in custom sizes on request.
11" x 24"
Shipping cost: $10.00
My mother always told me I was an observer. She said I would sit still for hours, just watching the world go by. I got my first camera at age 12 but I did not realize the power of photography until I got a chance to participate in a photographic research project on killer whales. There, I began learning the power that photographs held.
I ended up in California. I met a master photographer and printer named Robert Cavalli. I begged him for a job for over a year. Finally, he hired me and taught me everything I know about the possibilities of developing and printing all kinds of black and white film. He was an amazing teacher and I could not have paid for a better education in any school. He was a painter with light and his passion for the medium transferred to me.
Developing my own personal style began when I had to ride a train each day for over 120 miles. It was a unique view of the world. The landscape moving while I sat still, suspended in a metal box. Images scrolled by, some just a flash, some slowly disappearing from view. It became a challenge to capture these visions.
When I reached the end of my trip, my mind always created a single giant mental canvas on which the journey was etched. All that I had experienced was reflected on my mind's eye including what I had seen and feelings about the journey. I realized that this happens when we travel through or visit a place and I began to wonder how I could convey this in an image. I began to collaborate with Robert and it was from our collaborations and years of practice that I was able to develop the image style I use today.
I call them “Crossings”. They represent the images left in our mind’s eye that form after we visit or travel through a place, our inner, giant, mental canvas.
Rebecca McNeill Meyers is a New Orleans artist living and working in the Northshore.
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