Category Archives: San Francisco

Day of the dead (Dia de los muertos), Mission District, San Francisco, USA.

Day of the Dead, San Francisco

Earlier this month, I visited the mission district in San Francisco to photograph the Day of the Dead celebrations.  It was after a gap of nine years that I went to photograph this tradition also called ‘Dia De Los Muertos’ and was very surprised to see the overflowing crowd at the Garfield park this year.  This event seems to have become very popular by leaps and bounds.

I have uploaded some more photos in my photo archive that might interest you:  Dia De Los Muertos, Mission District, San Francisco

The following are my first impressions after attending the Dia De Los Muertos in San Francisco nine years back…

The sky weeps as a light rain falls. Human spirits, faces painted in white, eyes adorned with black circles, walk somberly. The light from the candles that the hands hold, is casting an eerie light on the face. Dead people are walking; dead in illusion but their spirits are alive. Death being a mere illusion for the living spirits. Altars have sprung up everywhere. Altars for the departed souls replete with food for the them, their favorite wines and food. Photos of the ones watching from above, adorn the altars as the living seek harmony with the dead.

A few hundred candles burn, lighting up the dark. A painted skeleton peeps into the mirror only to find itself staring back. A stark reminder of the image we might be, when the spirit leaves for the world beyond. I am drawn to the candles, slowly giving their life away to illuminate the world around. A little girl stands. holding a red candle, fascinated by the candle and the glow emanating from it.

I feel hesitant, unsure whether capturing these moments would mean intruding into the private rememberances. As I look through the lens, I feel one with the spirits, dead and alive. It’s another day, a celebration of being alive…

If it interests you, you may see some of those old photos from Day of the Dead 

I hope I get to see the dancing calaveras next year again.

Cassandra: Portraits

Last year at the Carnaval parade, I saw a girl with a beautiful smile dressed in colorful clothes dancing with a joyous abandon.

This year, she has been crowned San Francisco Carnaval’s teen queen with an electrifying performance in the junior king and queen contest as I mentioned in the previous post. After the event, she and her family graciously gave photographers like me some time for portraits. Showing a patience and grace beyond her years, Cassandra posed with a cheerful smile on her face.

The way she had danced like a trained ballerina, it was a surprise for me to learn from her that she does not have any formal ballet training. She is in eighth grade and I really wish one of the numerous dance companies in San Francisco Bay area would take her under their wing. There was this slogan on the mural in Everett Middle school lobby – “Follow your dreams”.

Follow your dreams Cassandra! I wish you all the luck.

April 25, 2008 An Update
(courtesy Colleen Tiffenson from Mas Makers, a leading Carnival group of SF bay area ):
Cassandra is a long time student of noted Bay Area Choreographer Linda Johnson and attends the Oakland School of Performing Arts. She is scheduled to be part of two dance camps this summer at UC Berkeley and Alvin Ailey in NY. As a member of Mas Makers performing cast, her talent is recognized and she is receiving guidance in the pursuit of her dreams.

Follow your dreams…

This past weekend was the junior king & queen / prince & princess contests of Carnaval held at Everett middle school auditorium on Church street in San Francisco. Carnaval crowned a new junior queen, a prince and a princess to add to its 2008 royalty.

The event had its moments – a perky six year old dressed in bright green takes the stage, starts and then freezes seeing the massive stage and lights. “Do you want to dance again?” Shake of the head indicates negative. Three requests to dance follow but no luck; kiddo wants to come back to the shelter of the side of stage.

Stage is big...lights are making me insecure

After two more performances by others, the kid comes on encouraged by parent and under flashes of the camera, dances graceful movements to a perfect rhythm, looking to his parent for approval from time to time. The music finishes and happy and buoyed by the dance, he returns thrilled with his performance. Everyone on this stage is a winner for me.

getting the hang of it...I like it!

I remember when I first went to recite poetry on a big stage with lights and hundreds of eyes watching me in the lighted up auditorium. There was no lectern to lean on and my legs were shaking uncontrollably but with hands clasped behind my back, I put up a brave front, recited my poem and somehow moved into a different zone. When my poem finished and the clapping sound brought me back to earth, it was a moment of relief that the recital went well without any lines being bungled. Yes, I could certainly understand what the six-year old was going through initially.

A good rhythm and dancing never fails to have my feet tapping. If I were not behind the camera, I think I would be dancing.

Though there were many stellar performances, I really loved Cassandra’s performance. She was the first participant on the roster for teen queen and she had a charismatic brilliance. Moving very gracefully, her steps flowed like a trained ballerina and those included an air split.

My Congratulations to all the youngsters and to their parents who provide the all necessary support and encouragement for them to follow their dreams. Much goes on behind the scenes to put up any such event; kudos to Roberto Hernandez and Karol An Meier for their loving dedication and the legacy they impart to these kids for years to come.

Some portraits follow…more photos of all the participants may be seen in my event galleries .