"Wistman's Wood, Dartmoor, United Kingdom" (c) 2013 Stu Jenks
I used to like Halloween as a child, with its Baby Ruth candies, its neighborhood spookiness and it being my mother's birthday too, but I haven't liked the holiday for years. I'm not a big fan that in America many adults use the holiday as an opportunity to express their sexual darkness, or their romanticism of Death, or their drunken angry inner selves. That being said, I do like the reverence of the Christian All Souls' Day, All Saints' Day and the resurgence of The Day Of The Dead celebrations, with personal altars displaying photographs of loved ones gone, and orange marigolds on graves newly cleaned.
I'll be walking in the All Souls' Procession in Tucson this Sunday, but I'm planning a more personal observance this weekend, of this time of the year when the veil between worlds is thin. Next year, I hope to be near Lively, Virginia, sitting on a bench in my family plot on November 1st, small candles burning near the headstones of my mother, father and sister.
Above is a photograph I took of Wistman's Wood last Spring when I was visiting friends in Chagford, Dartmoor. One of the oldest remaining oak wood in all of the UK, beautifully dwarfed by time and wind, Wistman's Wood truly is a sacred place, being its own gateway between earth and sky.
I wish I was there right this second, holding a photo of my family in one hand and a bunch of marigolds in the other. Or if not there, sitting on a marble bench in the Northern Neck of Virginia.
A photography ebook has been produced to raise funds for this year's All Souls' Procession of Tucson, Arizona. Selected images from the All Souls' Procession (ASP) Media Circle photographers represent the bulk of the book, along with a brief foreword by me. The photographers included are David Anderson, Randy Ashley, Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli, Cathy Bruegger, Katherine Burdick, Jody Cummins, Kathleen Dreier, C. Elliott, Lisa Foote, Jessica Hately, Tim Janes, Stu Jenks, Elijah Lecomte, Karel Moonen, Brendan Murphy, Jeff Smith and Susan Tiss. The ebook is for sale at the Apple website for viewing on iPads and iPhones and at the Amazon website for their Kindles. (It'll soon be available on the Nook at Barnes and Noble, and shortly on many international platforms.) The price is $7.99. All proceeds from sales (and I do mean ALL) go to the Tucson All Souls' Procession. This project has the blessing of Many Mouths One Stomach/ASP of Tucson. Give as you can. I hope you enjoy the photography in this book. Below is my foreword and a couple of images from last year's ASP.
Many in American culture today seem to believe we will never die. If we eat right, exercise and think good thoughts, we’ll live forever, and if not that, we’ll all die in our sleep, having been perfectly healthy the night before at the ripe old age of 107. But we all know that’s not true. Death is many things: The end of long suffering and illness; a sudden death due to accident, violence or overdose; a child dying far too soon; a peaceful transition from one life to the next; a quiet entering into the void; a life everlasting; or simply a great big dirt nap. Any, all, or none of the above. It’s a mystery. But one thing is not mysterious. We will all die, every single one of us, and after we have died, friends, family, and loved ones will remember us, and most will miss that we are no longer around. Tucson’s All Souls’ Procession Weekend is a remembrance of those who have died and a celebration of the mysteries that surround them and death. The weekend begins with an afternoon for children, The Procession Of The Little Angels on Saturday, but it’s Sunday’s All Souls’ Procession And Finale that leaves people stunned and awake, crying and smiling, somber and laughing, fearful and full of faith. Any, all, or none of the above. It’s a mystery.
My friend Leslie Epperson is making a documentary. She needs cash. Give as you can. The Indiegogo link is at the bottom of this post. And below is her pitch. A very worthy artistic venture. Again, I know it's hard time but give if you have a little extra.
Many Bones, One Heart is a documentary in progress about the All Souls Procession in Tucson, and the artists struggling to produce the event, despite conflicts brought on by its growing size. I want to explain why this project is so dear to my heart. When I saw the All Souls Procession in 2004, I was dazzled by the imaginative artwork on display, and pleased by the unusual mixture of sobriety and joy. The participants were a wonderfully diverse group, composed of many ethnicities and all ages.
I soon noticed that some people were carrying photographs of dead loved ones. Still others were rolling carefully constructed shrines honoring the deceased. I began to understand that something important was happening here; something I had not seen before. People were opening up, publicly sharing the loss of a loved one. I began to feel a roller coaster of emotion. One moment I would laugh with delight at some outrageous invention, or find myself moving to irresistible drumbeats, and the next, my eyes would fill with tears as a participant passed by with carefully arranged photos of a dead wife, or a father, or a child.
I have also experienced loss. I lost my health in a car accident, and a long marriage after revelations of betrayal. But the most significant loss was the death of My Mother, Jeanne, in 1968. When my sister Nora died a few years ago, I lost not only my best friend, but also my strongest connection to my Mother. I am dedicating Many Bones, One Heart to their memory.
"Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on." Mary Oliver,from Wild Geese. This documentary is not about me. I hope that presenting the stories of loss and recovery from the characters in the film will encourage those still suffering from the fresh wounds of grief. In this time of cynical pop culture and ongoing wars, I feel called to offer an alternative view of humanity. Depicting the beautiful art and compassionate behavior evident at the Procession and even more apparent at the Procession of Little Angels will offer clear examples of the kindness dwelling in most human hearts. And it is a challenge and an honor to portray the generosity of spirit that underlies the determined efforts of the artists that bring Tucson the All Souls Procession, year after year.
I want to acknowledge the example ofauthor Laura Hillenbrand as the inspiration for this undertaking. She wrote the NY Times Bestsellers SeaBiscuit and Unbroken, despite struggling with severe chronic illness. In an interview, Hillenbrand says that writing about her characters allowed her to experience their resilience and courage. After reading this, I decided to ignore my own health problems and return to documentary filmmaking. It might be the best decision I ever made.
We have over a month to reach our goal on the IndieGoGo crowd funding site. We will use whatever we raise to enable production this fall. I have uploaded 2 new videos since we started the campaign, and Kathleen Dreier and Emily Ann Jones have added several new photographs. Here is the link to the campaign page: www.indiegogo.com/Many-Bones-One-Heart?a=123972
The great thing about crowd funding is that every little bit counts--small donations grow to form a big pool of funds. $10.00 pledges are welcome! If you like what you see, please forward the link to friends.
I will write again soon and keep you updated on our progress.
Image: "Queen Esther Baptist Church, Lancaster, Virginia" (c) 2011 Stu Jenks (Just down River Road from Victoria's house. Love that luscious red carpet. And for you nocturnals out there, it was handheld. Rare for me.)
In this time of making photos on iPhones and Macbook Pros and only looking on screens, I forget I'm a old-school guy. I make a 8 1/2 x 11 work print on archival paper of EVERY image I make. EVERY one. It's the only way, for me, to accurately check for color shift, density, composition, etc. I really like my iPad screen but it's no way to make a good print.
And I have hundreds, if not thousands, of work prints artist proofs at my studio.
If you see an image of mine on The StuBlog or on my old website or on the Fezziwig Press Store or in any of my books, there's a beautiful small print in a box somewhere, perhaps with your name on it. And since I'm organized, I can find it.
Many of you can't afford my larger prints. I understand. I don't have an extra 50 or 100 lying around either. But I do have an extra $20 for stuff I really like.
So if you see an image of mine on any of my sites or in any of my books and you want it, it's yours for $25, shipping, handling and tax included. (I believe in paying taxes, sales and otherwise.)
Just email me at my facebook page or through the StuBlog or at firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell me what print you would like or just pull the jpeg and send that to me.
I was just watching the Tarhells lose today in basketball, working on images at my computer when I thought, 'I bet people don't realize I have boxes of work prints here.'
You all do now.
Love and light,
p.s. Ignore the catagories belows. The computer went wacky. Another reason why I prefer a print in the hand as opposed to an image in The Cloud.
"Tucson's All Souls' Procession: 2011" (c) 2011 Stu Jenks
I didn't take that many photographs at this year's ASP (All Souls' Procession), but that was more than OK with me. I was helping managing the photographers backstage and around the Grand Finale site, and I walked with the Urn, as well, through much of downtown, just because. Then the bagpipes called like me they always do and I walked with the Seven Pipers until I got to the Finale site.
What makes the ASP so powerful to me, among other things, is it's both a very large public event and a very private personal one, all at the same time. I can be surrounded for tens of thousands of people, but a single tear may fall from my eye when I hear Amazing Grace on the pipes, or when I think of my dead mother and sister, all while drummers, dancers and celebrants in dead face walk through my hometown.
To see some amazing work by the MMOS (Many Mouths One Stomach)/ASP photographers that had special access, just go to my Facebook page and to the ASP FB pages and browse around. You'll be bedazzled. The photogs you'll see on my Facebook (and at other FB pages as well) break the stereotype of the obnoxious photographer. Talented, wonderful folk all, besides being great imagemakers, they are also some of the most respectful, kindest artists you'll find anywhere. Thanks, everyone who had a photo pass (and many of those who didn't have passes,) for being such wonderful photographic ladies and gentlemen.
And below of my images from All Souls' Procession. I was going for grainy yet sharpish. And I seem to have been drawn to the faces of those around the Urn, and the faces of those who worked so hard to make this all happen. Thanks, Alphonso, Jefe, Paul, Heather, Moises, Nadia, and on and on and on. Literally, too many to name.
And I had to take some pics of fire too. I am a Zippo man, after all.