For the past three years, I have endeavored to bring a little of the Day of the Dead spirit to the Mid-Atlantic with an annual photoshoot. In the past, I shot in Congressional Cemetery and in studio, but this year I wanted a little more of the authentic fun and joy of the Day of the Dead celebrations.
So I went to Old Town Alexandria with David Miller dressed in a tuxedo with a custom sugar skull great make-up mask provided by Jessie Campbell.
The rest was pretty much street photography at its best. The images, particularly the shots of David interacting with folks, are awesome. People seemed to really enjoy the randomness of a guy walking around in a tux with a sugar skull.
My first real experience with Dia de Muertos was with ace advertising photographer Cade Martin in San Miguel de Allende (read more here). It was such an amazing and captivating experience that every Halloween I think of the Day of the Dead instead. Seeing people having fun with David revived that memory for me.
That Classic Tux Look
Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead in English) is an Aztec holiday that celebrates friends and family members who died. It has since become a cultural phenomenon that is now a national holiday in Mexico, and has spawned Day of the Dead celebrations in countries across the globe. In the past five years, Hollywood embraced the Day of the Dead with movies such as Coco and the last James Bond film, Spectre.
One aspect of the celebration is sharing images and creating tributes with some of the celebrated dead’s favorite foods and items. People who dress up with sugar skull make-up also often wear clothes from an ancestor’s era, such as a classic tuxedo.
David’s look with a classic tuxedo and cane spoke to me of a time from the not too distant past, making it a fitting outfit for the shoot. Sure, some still wear tuxedos, but black-tie events are not anywhere near as prevalent as they used to be.
Interacting with Art
The beautiful art and colors of the Day of the Dead amaze me. One thing I wanted to capture was the artistic nature of Jessie’s make-up work on David’s sugar skull, particularly as it interacted with other works of art.
In addition to the street shots, we also shot at the Torpedo Factory Art Center and in the Mirror Mirror installation in downtown Alexandria. You can see the results in this section.
Conclusion and Be Safe In the Rain!
I hope you enjoyed my Day of the Dead pictorial. Hopefully, I will make it back to Mexico for a celebration again in the near future. But until then, the spirit remains and I celebrate and remember.
Stay safe in the rain this Halloween, and cherish the moments with your loved ones, both small and large, alive and in memory.