(Check out our event calendar for Day of the Dead events and activities throughout the weekend.)
Rivard Report: Let’s start with some background about yourself; where do you call “home” and what do you do when you’re not taking photos in San Antonio (for business and pleasure)?
John Schulze: I’ve spent most of my life in small, south Texas towns, but moved with my wife and son into a 1920 bungalow in Mahncke Park in 1996. I manage the College Level Writing Center at Northwest Vista College, where I also teach technical writing. When I’m not fiddling around with photos, I like gardening, vegetarian cooking and working on the aforementioned bungalow. And whenever possible, my family and I love to travel, especially to Europe.
RR: Tell us about your collection of Dia de Los Muertos photos: when and where were they taken?
JS: These were all taken 2007-2009 at San Fernando Cathedral, La Villita, El Mercado, and Northwest Vista College.
Created with flickr slideshow.
RR: Could you describe for us your perspective of the festivities (do you have a personal or cultural connection to the Day of the Dead)?
JS: My earliest childhood memories are of living in Pharr, TX, very close to Mexico. I was exposed to a lot of Mexican culture growing up, and took extensive road and train trips throughout Mexico with my parents. I’ve known about el Dia de los Muertos for as long as I can remember, and I’ll have to admit that as a little kid I found it creepy. I couldn’t imagine having a picnic on the grave of an ancestor, and there was no way I would have considered eating a sugar skull or chocolate coffin. Gross!
As I grew up, however, I gained an appreciation of the ancient beliefs of many cultures this is the time of year when the veil between the worlds of living and dead is its thinnest. So I’ve embraced this holiday, along with its sanitized and commercialized version, Halloween.
I’ve learned that in the Mexican tradition, there are three deaths—the first occurs when the body ceases to function, the second when the body is buried, and the third when one is no longer remembered. I have found the altars of el Dia de los Muertos to be a beautiful way to forestall that third death for those loved ones who have left behind their physical existence.
It’s not a scary or mournful custom to me anymore; it’s a joyful and hopeful one, one that I look forward to every year. And I’m all in favor of joy and hope – not to mention sugar skulls and chocolate coffins.
RR: Have you ever made a Dia de los Muertos altar for a loved one?
JS: We have made several. Every year we grow marigolds to decorate the altar, and in spite of the drought, we’ve continued that custom.
RR: What are some of the best places to experience Day of the Dead in San Antonio?
JS: I stumbled into a procession taking place at La Villita, with drummers, people in costume, and larger-than-life skeleton puppets. It was very impressive and lots of fun. I highly recommend this event!
RR: How will you be spending this year’s festivities?
JS: I plan to park somewhere downtown, see what’s been put up at El Mercado and San Fernando, and take in whatever I can of the scheduled events in La Villita.
RR: What kind of camera did you use?
JS: I used two Fuji Finepix models, A205 and S700. They’re fairly basic point-and-shoot cameras.
RR: Did you have any difficulties taking any of these photos (because of lighting, movement, etc)?
JS: I was fortunate in having good lighting when shooting these, and any movement there was enhanced what I was trying to do.
The Rivard Report is always looking for local photographers to feature on our homepage gallery – it’s easy and we pay. Interested professionals and hobbyists with a compelling visual story to share are encouraged to contact Managing Editor Iris Dimmick, firstname.lastname@example.org.