The “City”, series — 1993

As I stood in the cemetery in Queens, the tombstones seemed to reach up to the sky. They merged with the skyline of Manhattan, headstone into skyscraper, creating a continuity between the city of the living and the city of the dead. It was as if I was standing somewhere in between a Greek Necropolis and one of those Midwestern Cemeteries portrayed in the photographs of Edgar Lee Masters. I should have stood there in reverential silence. But my Professional habits die hard, and urged me to shoot the stones caught in the shadow, to look deeper at the epitaphs, names and stories. I see the persistent presence of death in all the forms of American civilization; from pre-Colombian cults to the modern rituals of Halloween. Today some young malcontent paints a skull on the wall of an abandoned dock. The window of a shop selling sex aids and accessories is adorned by another skull. The blown out windows of Black and Spanish Harlem look like empty eye sockets. I can’t tell if these faces of death are a grotesque comic mask or a courageous confrontation of bitter reality, some kind of Camedolite memento mori. But I can hear the footsteps of Atropos in the streets of the city. This is not the only aspect of New York I see. Elsewhere it is filled with life, a phenomenal abundance of life, constantly renewed and reenergized as people pursue happiness, and happiness pursues them. 

Andrzej Strumillo