Grave marker at a cemetery in Alpine, Texas. Copyright
© W. Blaine Pennington [email@example.com].
Note: Unauthorized use of this photograph without permission
from W. Blaine Pennington is strictly prohibited. To see more
of this photographer's cemetery images, visit his website, "The
"This memorial is in a beautiful little cemetery near Alpine,
Texas. I made the image as part of a photo series on cemeteries
I have been working on for years. The image of this unusual memorial
was made early one morning in June of 1992.
These types of very personal, handmade cemetery art; especially
ones using wood and punched metal are rapidly disappearing. Some
are weathering badly, some are neglected, and sadly, some are
vandalized. It's a style no longer seen in contemporary cemeteries
and it is sad that it will not be preserved much longer.
The Memorial is a wooden cross with carved ends, and it is painted
white, although the paint is weathering poorly. In the center
is what appears to be a galvanized metal shield nailed to the
cross. A bouquet of red fabric roses are wired to the base of
the cross. The shield on the cross appears to be a hand-cut piece
of galvanized metal, such as used in old metal signage, roofing,
barns and out buildings on modest farms in Texas, and elsewhere.
The handmade nature of the grave marker is typical of what one
sees in the beautiful, touching and deeply personal memorials
in Hispanic cemeteries in Texas, and elsewhere... Especially the
older cemeteries; as the crafts of welding, ceramic tile work,
hand-poured cement sculpture, punched "tin", etc., seem
to be losing favor with contemporary generations.
An inscription is punched into the metal with some sharp implement:
such as a punch, or perhaps a nail, etc. Although weathered, paint
spattered and somewhat difficult to read, the following is the
best I could make out of what the inscription says.
I am far from certain that is what it actually says, as some
letters are very difficult to read and at least one seems to be
reversed (the "N" in DEDICANESTE), but it is the best
I can make of what I saw. Unfortunately, I speak little Spanish,
and that also makes deciphering it more difficult for me.
The condition of both the paint, although chipped here, and the
fabric flowers suggest that someone was still caring for this
treasure as recently as a few years ago.
In my photographic work, I usually make no attempt to formally
document a gravesite or record all the known information about
a specific person. My intention is more of a personal investigation
into the imagery, and rich cultural artifacts to be found in cemeteries,
using my own interpretation of the documentary tradition of photography.
While I understand the pressing need, and applaud other efforts
for formal documentary record keeping for purposes of genealogical
research, that has not been my primary intention. I have been
more interested in focusing an artists eye on the social anthropology
and cultural geography of cemetery art, statuary and the landscaping
of the nineteenth century garden cemetery, as well as the hand-made
and folk art memorials in Hispanic and other cemeteries in the
American South. This largely unstudied and under-appreciated wealth
of folk art, culture and tradition seems too important to let
it slip away."
- W. Blaine Pennington