Photography Assignment: Pioneer Park

A couple days ago I mentioned that I went to a park at sunset just to take pictures.

I had an overwhelming urge to capture Mother Nature in all her glory and I left the park feeling overwhelmingly satisfied.

Plus, both Penny de los Santos with whom I went on the Photography Tour of Mexico City



Diane Cu, who instructed the Food & Light Workshop

both strongly encouraged giving ourselves personal projects.

Meaningful projects that challenge us and push us out of our comfort zone.  Or at the very least challenge us to just do something.  Anything.

Whether that’s challenging yourself to cook one new recipe a week or take 5 pictures daily or run 1 mile without stopping, just doing something is better than nothing.

So I assigned myself the challenge of taking pictures and pondering the deeper meaning and thinking about the stories attached to things I saw and images I captured at Pioneer Park.

But it’s not just any park.

It’s actually an old cemetery from the 1800s but now there is a school and playground equipment on the grounds.

Why this place?

It’s nearby

It’s not run of the mill

How many pictures of roses and sunflowers can you really take anyway before they begin to all look the same

And there are powerful stories on the grounds of Pioneer Park.

Who was Agnes?  What kind of life did she lead?

Obviously she was a Mother.  And clearly an amazing one since MOTHER is in all caps, it’s at the top of the headstone, and that’s how her family wanted to remember her.  I’d be flattered if my family did the same for me.   If I don’t succeed at that job, everything else seems for naught.

Nellie, you were loved.

And this stone is truly breathtaking in person

The sun was setting and quickly

Daylight was dwindling.

But the giant redwoods did not care.

They never do.

They will be around for another 200 years after you and I are bits of dust and ash.

There is character and stories aplenty on these grounds

The history, the vintage flair, the creepy-yet-artsy vibe

The stonework.

All hand carved.

Who can carve stone by hand?

I can’t even grind cashews by hand.

Who were these artists?

The beauty of the stones they carved and remembering the beauty in the lives for those who now lay underneath those stones.

I wonder who these people were and what San Diego was like for them 120 years ago?

 I wonder whom and what they believed in?

Or if they believed?

I imagine life was hard for them, but I’d like to think they were happy.

Happy with the simple things

I wish I knew their stories

I’d venture to guess, Kittie, wife of James, a 29 year old woman, died in childbirth.

I wonder if she had other children.  Or if the baby lived.  Or if there was a baby.  I’m just speculating.  But it’s reported that up to 40% of women in the 1800s did die in childbirth.

But who really knows.

As I paid honor to those dead and gone, I witnessed life.

Children running and playing on the playground equipment

Skylar dancing on the sidewalk

And I remembered that life is short.

And precious.

Hug your loved ones and live your life to the fullest.

This self-assigned project was good for me.  Very good. 

It made me think.  It stretched me.  It made me grow.

Both as a photographer and as a human.

Thanks for the comments on my last post, Fruit or Vegetable.  There are a few head-scratches, indeed.


1. Do cemeteries seem creepy to you?  Or not?  Are you scared of them?  Do you have after-death wishes, i.e. buried, cremated, don’t care?

I am not scared of cemeteries at all.  I wouldn’t want to get married in one, but I don’t fear them.

And if you could see this one (I didn’t want to take pictures of the jungle gym because there were lots of kids on it and I am not comfortable posting pictures of people and especially children whom I don’t know and don’t have their express permission to photograph) but this cemetery is so alive. 

There is a school on the grounds of it, it doubles as a park and there are always weekend gatherings and potlucks at this park.

There’s a Starbucks and thriving urban scene right around the corner.  It’s much more vibrant and full of life, actually, than any other cemetery I’ve ever seen.

After death, I’d prefer to be cremated but actually, the more I ponder it, I don’t really care.  I won’t be here.

Getting a little morbid?  Oh well.  Life is not always roses and sunflowers.

2. What was the last project or assignment you gave yourself? Or that someone else gave you?  What did you learn?

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