Celestial Cities of the Dead by Margaret Morton

Great story and a wonderful theme. I loved reading about her experience and I crave to see more about the people, culture and Kyrgyzstan history. I am not that crazy about the photography itself, it lacks impact to me, maybe because I'm a sucker for contrast, and it leaves me wanting to see some faces and surrounding subject matter, not just the actual cemeteries and tombs. Nonetheless this is a great piece and worth seeing. 

images are © Margaret Morton


"A Kyrgyz Muslim cemetery seen from a distance is astonishing. At first it seems a mirage. The ornate domes and minarets are so completely at odds with the desolate mountain landscape. As one approaches, the scale contracts. The opulent structures are surprisingly smaller than they seemed from afar. Graceful crescent moons float above cupolas and peaked towers, balanced on fragile metal rods. These miniature walled cities of the dead reveal the complex nature of the Kyrgyz people’s religious and cultural identity, which combines early Shamanistic and Buddhist customs with Muslim architectural forms and Soviet influences.
My first trip to Kyrgyzstan was in July 2006, with Virlana Tkacz, Manhattan theatre director of Yara Arts Group, who had invited me to photograph sites referenced in a Kyrgyz epic poem that she planned to perform at LaMaMa Experimental Theatre.
As we traveled a deserted road along the windswept south shore of Lake Issyk-kul, one of the largest mountain lakes in the world, a magnificent miniature city suddenly came into view. As we drove by, the majestic forms compressed and flattened. I was transfixed by the illusion..."

Cities of the Dead: The Ancestral Cemeteries of Kyrgyzstan continues through December 30 at the Wolk Gallery, at M.I.T.'s School of Architecture and Planning. MIT Building 7, Room 338, at 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA. Information.

The date for Ken Schles's book signing at ICP Bookstore is Thursday, December 15: 6-7:30 pm:  Ken Schles | Oculus. ICP Store, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY. Information.

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