Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
Gabriel Safdie’s 2017 digital photo calendar features Mexico
By Byron Toben
Westmount’s Gabriel Safdie is a man of many parts… educator, theatre supporter, traveller, businessman, gallery owner and photographer. He is featured in the current issue of The Montrealer monthly print magazine and was described, along with two other creative individuals in the Montreal area who combine artistic talents with social consciousness, in our WestmountMag.ca article of September 18, 2016.
For some years, he distributed a large annual photo calendar to business associates and friends – about 11” x 14”. It often featured photos from China and other parts of Asia, where business frequently called him. The last one 2016 was dedicated to the Stanstead area, near the US border, where his art gallery is located.
Even though I received and appreciated paper copies of the 2015 and 2016 editions, it was a relief to see that the 2017 version is now available in a more portable digital form. Viewers will note it features shots of Mexico, another of his haunts, often around January or February. (I wonder why?)
Anyway, the twelve shots reveal a sensitive but non-intrusive eye so enjoy each month’s selection.
Gabriel Safdie on the images featured in his digital photo calendar for 2017:
“Dia de los Muertos has its roots in the Aztec culture but is also associated with All Saints Day or All Souls Day, so that its mythology is richly layered in its imagery and motifs. Since the people believe in an afterlife, one witnesses more celebration than grieving for the dead loved ones. The cemeteries in and around Oaxaca are visited by the families who take much care to decorate them in commemoration of their dead relatives. There is a profusion of flowers everywhere, photos and mementos, toys on the children’s graves, bottles of mezcal, the designated bread, foodstuffs, whatever.”
“Then throughout the city, in shops and restaurants, private and public places of work, there are the altars, adorned arrangements with much the same elements that are on the graves and really quite beautiful in their arrangements.”
Dia de los Muertos has its roots in the Aztec culture but is also associated with All Saints Day or All Souls Day, so that its mythology is richly layered in its imagery and motifs.
“Meanwhile, by day and by night there are processions always accompanied by bands of musicians and with incredible figures dressed up as characters from the underworld, figures evoking death and all kind of fantastical apparitions, gathering locals and some tourists as they make their way through the streets and onto the city squares.”
“There are also folkloric events in keeping within the theme of the event that perform folkloric dances and rituals from the regions and towns of the culture rich state of Oaxaca.”
Below are some of the images featured in the calendar.
Images: © 2016 Gabriel Safdie
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club