Atacama graveyard

Syd Winer

Jindabyne, Australia

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Featured in As is photography 5 April 2013.

Featured in Chile Lindo 3 March 2012.

Between Antofagasta and Calama in the Atacama desert are abandoned cemeteries with nameless crosses tangled in the wire armatures of wreaths. At the entrance to one graveyard a handwritten sign implored visitors not to desecrate the graves. Across the graveyard I spied a coffin projecting from a broken crypt – a mummified leg poked from coffin – the air in the Atacama is so dry that bodies mummify rather than rot. My first thought was that vandals had smashed the crypt. Looking around I saw collapsed graves, more body parts, arms, and two child sized bodies sharing a grave. I was mortified – what sort of sick mind would do this sort of damage. On my high moral horse by this point I didn’t take pictures of the dead.

Days later, still cycling northward I parked my bicycle against a road cutting and climbed up onto the top for lunch. I could hear a large truck approaching and looked up the road to see it. Nothing. I looked down the road. Nothing. The rumble got louder. Still nothing. The ‘truck’ got closer and noisier. The road stretched empty to the horizon in both directions. The earth shook. A doppler effect – the pitch of the noise changed and passed me heading south. An earth tremor. Back at the graveyard the mummified bodies would have rattled in their coffins, their crypts and graves would have crumbled a bit more. Another limb may have appeared… Meanwhile the highly moral cyclist remounted his steel horse and pondered if he would have taken, like, really cool pictures of dead people ‘n stuff, if only he’d earlier sussed out how they came to be on public view in the first place.

510 views at 5 April 2013.

Shot on Fuji transparency film.

More images from this cycle tour can be seen in the South America by bike collection on my Bubblesite.

Artwork Comments

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