"There are moments when even to the sober eye of reason, the world of our sad humanity may assume the semblance of Hell.” - Edgar Allen Poe
Halloween has a long tradition but the form that is so well known today is an amalgamation of many different customs from across the western world. From Italy, Scotland and England, minor cultural creations have merged into a commercialised holiday of excess. Small fortunes are spent on decorations, candy and costumes, for only one night a year. This globalised holiday was supposed to puncture the fear surrounding death, evil and horror. Now it is more a grotesque mockery of itself.
Cameron Jamie (1969, USA) continues the tradition of puncturing fear, though he does so now by revealing these dark spectacles to the light of day. The 53 black and white plates in his new book Front Lawn Funerals andCemeteries show the front gardens of houses from around Los Angeles, where the homeowners have gone particularly over the top in their celebrations, with no regard to local property values. The constructions frequently reference horror movies from the 1980s, with Freddy Krueger still managing to terrorise today’s youths, though they have probably never seen the films.
Apart from the absurdity of the situations and occasional unbelievable lawn beheading, the book also shows the slightly distasteful humour of the homeowners, for example with epitaphs crudely scrawled on to cardboard headstones: “Here lies the body of Lester More, no less, no more.” “Mike Crutch, 1869” or “Disco, the dance that never stood a chance.” The photos are all printed full bleed as landscapes, giving documentary insight into the ghastly extravagances of the ghostly American holiday. Details in the photos do give them more depth, though Front Lawn Funerals and Cemeteries doesn’t exactly aim to be exactly high minded, lending itself instead to a more base and humorous reading.