The memoriality of the cemetery, its metaphysics as a place associated with an unknowable time after physical death, combined with its visible physical objects, markers of distinguished-yet-connected cultures, have attracted artists for a long time. In her series of photographs taken in Highgate Cemetery, Marine Smith avoids the humble grief that is traditionally prescribed…
Spots of pure color: blue, green, pink. Silhouettes of tombstones dissolving to almost invisible contours. Trees and light with blinding glare. Using the advantages of digital photography, Smith transforms the space in such a way that the photo itself loses its main characteristic, namely the captured moment. Smith’s images preserve not a moment here, but a process; the world in her images is in a mobile phase of formation and formlessness in constant exchange, just as the cemetery’s inhabitants lose one form to take on another, from human, to earth, to flora, to fauna, with most time spent ‘between’.
Smith makes sure it is impossible to accurately determine the boundaries of her ‘landscapes’, fully cohering the medium to the location with its combination of abstraction and documentary. The Marxist pilgrimage site in Smith’s photographs looks like an ever-changing place and yet also a universal image of a cemetery.
There is a whole tradition of graveyard depictions, and death scenes ranging from Romantic landscapes to post-mortem photography; Smith’s works stands out as well as standing within this tradition; her method allows her to uniquely express this dualism of otherworldliness and reality, with the camera’s gaze not stopping at the tombstones and graves, but moving further and further — moving always — showing us this journey from one matter to another, that is, the endless journey of the soul.