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Worth a thousand words

Mar 17, 2009
by Carrie Pack Chowske, '00

Journalism student chronicles hidden cemetery in photo essay

In a secluded graveyard, simple labels like “mother” and “grandmother” peek out from slabs of cement, colored brightly with shades of pink and blue. Love is apparent there, as is the lack of money loved ones have to spend on deceased relatives.

But right next to the makeshift plots, separated only by a transparent fence, sits the pristine and modern Evergreen Cemetery. Visitors would have to move branches and step through weeds and overgrowth to get back to this “other” area, where the dates on the markers are as recent as 1990.

Audio Slideshow: Photo Essay by Haley Walker

Senior Haley Walker found this stark contrast between the haves and have-nots in West Augustine while completing a project for a Flagler College photojournalism class that also ran in The St. Augustine Record’s monthly publication, Drift.

“[The plots are] old, but not from a time when people should have to be doing this to bury their loved ones,” Walker said.

The communication major and editor of the Flagler newspaper, The Gargoyle, wanted to learn more about the cemetery and its lonely neighbor, but she wanted to tell the story in a different way.

“I didn’t want to interview anyone and intrude to ask what this [area] was,” Walker said. “So I started taking photos to document the difference between the areas.”

The link she found between the life a person lives and his ability to pay for a final resting place comes across in her photos. In this, the poorest community in St. Augustine, some could only afford simple concrete slabs, plastic fencing and acrylic paint, while others had granite monuments and manicured lawns.

“The things we see in life will also carry over into death,” she said. “They’re still in poverty. The people who cannot afford to buy a house can’t afford to pay for a gravestone for their loved ones. So they have to make their own gravestones … right next to beautiful, granite stones.”

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