by Shawna Black

October means Halloween. Halloween means ghosts. Ghosts remind me of death, and of death, graveyards. All of this leads us to 1985 when I was 17 years old. This was a fine time to be a teenager, especially for those into music and multiple ear piercings. If we go back a few more years, we would be in 1983 and this would be the year that it started. “It” as defined by my evolution into a “freak,” as my father so lovingly put it. May he rest in peace…OK, full circle here. It’s funny how this happens.

1983. My best friend turns me on to Duran Duran. Before my parents realize what’s happening, it’s 1985, I’m dying my hair black, cutting it as short as I can get away with (what I really wanted a mohawk but my mother would’ve shit her pants), wearing way too much make up and listening to a variety of punk bands. I was a freak and most of my friends were freaks, too. We were cool.

So, as any self-respecting gang of (wannabe) punks would do, we hung out at graveyards, drank, smoked cigarettes and consumed a variety of drugs. One particular graveyard we visited is located in Fallbrook, CA. I was fascinated with this place. It was old. It was rundown. It was just cool. By this time, I was also into photography and promised myself that I would come back during the day and take some pictures. Three years later I made my way back to that graveyard, my Nikon in hand and t-max 100 loaded in the camera.

The class I was taking at the time was advanced black and white and the final for the class was to be a series of five shots, subject of our choice. As soon as our instructor handed out the assignment, I knew what was to be my subject. The graveyard.

The two shots I am featuring today are from that series. These two are my favorite from that day at the graveyard with my camera. Black spiky hair and dog collar chain necklaces were a thing of the past. But now I had my camera and I had an assignment.

The first picture, call this one Hargreave, I love for many reasons. Observe the angles, the contrast, the shallow depth of field. The name on the headstone is the sharpest part of the image. The letters draw the eye into the center of the subject and the out-of-focus tree branches also help guide the eye to the focal point. The stark contrast of the white picket fence in the foreground and how this somehow does not distract from the subject is perhaps left to the secret of photography. See the detail of the leaves on the ground. Notice the shadow on the headstone. And don’t forget about the full-frame affect with the ragged black border. Composition of the finest I’ve ever achieved.

The second picture, the one I call Pickle, is just cool because of the all the fences. The fences draw the viewer into the subject. Again, the composition is what attracts me to this picture. Someone pointed out to me the other day that the deceased woman’s husband is named William Pickle. Bill Pickle. Now, that shit is funny. Bill Pickle! May you rest in peace.



Shawna live somewhere on the east coast and still istens to Duran Duran



Heh Duran Duran. I'll tell my Simon story sometime.

I shot at a few graveyards backeast, North Carolina to be exact. We are talkin 1700's on this place, in the middle of whats now a small forrest, broken down iron fence, and you just sorta stumbled onto it. That made visiting mom worth it. The out of the norm graveyards.


see dude, that's why I like this column. the black and white.

Thie first one confuses your eyes before you see what is really going on with the headstone. Then the words that grab you are Greave. That's cool. Really grabs a sense of confusion and realization at the same time.

The second one is just grabbing. It nails me on the feeling of it's all over and she is forgotten except by you and her husband. And he is gone now too.

I have always said you are an amazing picture taker type person. You have an ability to take that what you feel and put it on to film.


Beautiful photos and great story to go with them.

I love taking cemetery photos. It's amazing how much emotion you can get out such stillness.

This is one I took in upstate, NY at a cemetery on a hill.

Turtle captured the feeling you get from this picture here.


Produced y- Where in NC?

Turtle, thank you so much. Since I've been writing these columns, I am totally wanting to get back into the dark room. I need to find some equipment and start working again.

Michele, I like that shot. It looks sexual.


From your Duran Duran loving high school buddy.....this is the first time I've seen your work and let me just say Wow! It is amazing and I can't wait to see more. By all means...get back in the dark room.


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