If you’ve thumbed through the October issue of Arizona Highways, then you’ve seen this month’s portfolio by Mark Lipczynski, Where the Bodies Are Buried… if you missed it, well, that’s very sad news because this issue — and that portfolio — absolutely rock (fortunately, you can still find the magazine on newsstands). “We developed this thing with Mark in mind,” says Arizona Highways Editor Robert Stieve. “In addition to shooting our ‘Hometown of the Month,’ he’s taken on some tricky assignments over the years, and he always nails it. Mark has a unique ability to take the ordinary and create something extraordinary. This portfolio is a great illustration of that.”
Below, Mark talks about this assignment, the spooky technical difficulties he encountered along the way and what he plans to do with the outtakes.
So, Photo Editor Jeff Kida calls you with this kooky assignment… what did you make of it?
Whenever Arizona Highways calls with an assignment I never say no. At least I haven’t had to in the last three years that I’ve been taking assignments for them. The message here is that I love the jobs I get hired to do for Highways. I think Jeff has me listed as his official “kooky” assignment photographer. I’ve done a few jobs for Highways that can be categorized as such, so the cemeteries job didn’t surprise me. I was all over it.
How did you prepare for this assignment?
I hit Google for any information I could find on the cemeteries I was assigned to shoot. I read websites like http://www.findagrave.com and poured over Google satellite views overlooking the locations where the cemeteries were supposed to be located based on the GPS coordinates provided. There were three cemeteries that I never found even with specific driving directions, GPS coordinates and information that I gathered from the Web. It was like the cemeteries were ghosts themselves.
Did you have a vision of what you wanted to accomplish?
I had shot cemeteries and haunted hotels on assignment before for other publications, so I had a foundation to build on. I knew that I would be shooting at different times of day and under different lighting conditions. My goal was to use in-camera “tricks” to create an ethereal and mysterious feeling that would tie all the cemeteries together, thus minimizing the issue with inconsistent lighting. The reason I mention the lighting, and how it relates to the time of day, is because a graveyard in the middle of the afternoon just isn’t very interesting, mysterious or spooky. It was my job to give each one a feeling or mood.
What were you most looking forward to?
The outcome. I had no idea if my photographic ideas were going to work. I didn’t know if I was going to like the pictures. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to find all 15 cemeteries within the time frame that I was given.
You logged a lot of miles… was there any part of the state that really wowed you?
The town of Solomon in Graham county is really neat. I hope to get back there again sometime. It’s like a dusty old farming community in eastern Arizona. The cemetery there is situated on top of a small mesa overlooking miles of farm land. I loved it there. It was quiet and peaceful. The perfect place to rest in peace.
I heard you ran into some “technical difficulties” along the way. How did you overcome those ghostly challenges?
One of my digital camera bodies went on the fritz in Williams. I was able to power through it, but eventually had to send it off for service. I still don’t know what caused the glitch. There’s no obvious explanation as to why the camera stopped working. I always, always, always have vintage film cameras on hand that don’t have a lick of electronics in them in case of a solar flare or some unexplainable occurrence knocks out power to all electronic cameras in the world.
Favorite image that ran?
How about my top three? I like the shots of Bisbee, Oracle and Solomon best. I handed in close to 200 ready images for the magazine. Many of the ones that didn’t run are also some of my favorites.
Favorite image that didn’t run?
A shot I did in Yuma. It may have been to dark to run in the magazine. Yuma was the only cemetery I stayed until after dark to photograph.
You have a lot of cemetery shots… any plans to do something with them?
I hope to put together a gallery exhibition sometime next fall that features a selection of my personal favorites printed beautifully and BIG!
What kind of camera did you use?
I use Canon 5D MKII’s. I also have 10 or 11 vintage Argus C3’s and a Diana F.