Dia de los Muertos, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA, 27 October 2012 (Page 1 of 1)

This is the third time Lisa and I went to Hollywood Forever Cemetery to participate in Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). I ran into several photographer friends, a musician friend, and a fellow educator while there as well as friends who drove up from Long Beach, although I ditched them soon after to photograph people in the beautiful "golden hour" of the sun, much as I did last year. This is sometimes the life of a photographer.

Dia de los Muertos is about gathering families and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. Although this usually corresponds with the Catholic holiday All Saints' Day on November 1 and 2, Hollywood Forever held it beforehand. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls and the favorite foods, beverages, and affects of the departed.

Historians trace the origins to indigenous observances 2500-3000 years ago ago as well as to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl.

All photos were taken with my new Nikon D7000, but I changed lens, alternating between a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm prime, and Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens.

Calaveras, or skulls.

A common symbol of Dia de los Muertos is the skull, represented in masks called calacas. Sugar skulls, inscribed with the names of the deceased on the forehead, are often eaten by a relative or friend.

Skull man, one of the Aztec dancers performing, at Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Pure darkness.
Pure goodness.
Oh yes.

Colorful skull figure, one of the amazing altars at this event.

Near one of the altars at Hollywood Forever Cemetery during the Dia de los Muertos event, one of several in Los Angeles, including Boyle Heights and Olvera Street.

Kid by crypt. The creepiest scary movie directors know that kids are scary, and this is illustrated by this photo here.

Three Aztec women, Dia de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos commemorates and honors those who have passed. Often not a dour, depressing or scary holiday - despite my photographic treatment :) - the holiday is a festive, joyous time of celebration.

Late night celebrants at Dia de los Muertos.

Aztec dancers' feather headdresses beautifully backlit in the night while performing.

Face painting.

I always get asked about food at the Dia de los Muertos event at Hollywood Forever cemetery.

There are many vendors serving mostly Mexican food, as you would expect, but also Salvadorean food, and even one vendor selling Thai food. You can find fresh tortas, tacos, pupusas, burritos, tamales, and much more. Of course, people sell sugar skulls as well. Other special foods for Dia de los Muertos includes Pan de Muertos (bread of the dead), a sweet egg bread made in many shapes, from plain rounds to skulls and rabbits.

Portrait of a couple.

When I process these photos, I feel like I never know what I am going to get until I am finished. Some photos take in an especially potent emotional quality when processed into a photo that looks like an antique. Others simply don't work, and I'll typically leave them off even if it is a good photo. But that said, often, it's the portaits of people in face paint that work out best.

A woman with a particularly beautiful feathery headdress, waiting in line for tamales.

Dia de los Muertos celebrants in candlelight.


Antique photos and sloppy borders
I frequently get asked how I create these ancient looking photos and sloppy borders. I wrote about how to do this on my Ken Lee Photography blog.

I love the aesthetics and how it can create more emotion in a photograph. I also love the whole idea of taking my time, getting a good strong sharp image with great lighting, and then completely screwing it up!!!



Ken's photos of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as photos of Peru, Burma, India, Morocco, China, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, and elsewhere, have appeared in many books, magazines, websites, and galleries.  Visit the Ken Lee Photography Website. Some of Ken's select photos may be purchased through his Imagekind Store.

Buy Ken's art at ImageKind.com.

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