Published by Minor Matters, Mourning is photographer Lisa Kereszi’s long-awaited sixth photo book, which centers around her family’s gravesite in suburban Philadelphia. The large-scale edition, whose production is solely funded via crowd-sourcing, contains grids of images made remotely with a hunter’s trail camera during a mourning period of sorts.
The presale ends on 8/1/23, then the book will come out physically before the end of the year. Check out the link at the bottom to get a copy of this beautiful, powerful book.
Here’s an excerpt from Lisa’s essay in Mourning:
“Your dad died,” my four-year-old daughter said. Matter-of-factly. Looking me in the eye. It seemed to me a statement, but also a question, somehow. Maybe she was looking to me for a reaction, some guidance on how to feel?
I just replied, “Yes. My dad died.” I didn’t know what else to say. He was 64.
His last year had been one of shuffling, suffering, and mourning. His mother had died that May before, just shy of her 83rd birthday. His sister and her friend had been occupying the family home and continued to do so, changing the locks immediately after their mother’s death, and barring him – and anyone else related to him — from entering.
Instead of mourning and settling my grandmother’s estate as I had been asked to do by her, I was locked in a battle with my aunt, obsessively trying to recover as many of my Nan’s belongings from inside the mildewed home, as well as from local pawnshops, consignment shops and even the free store where she had sold and deposited items from the house.
Unable to settle my grandmother’s estate on my own terms, I acted efficiently and with purpose to have my father’s gravestone, etched with my earlier portrait of him in his beloved pink Caddy, mounted at the family plot before that year’s end. This I could achieve. But within weeks, it was knocked over. When I learned this, my first thought was that someone had toppled it. Someone random? Someone angry? My aunt or one of her friends? Or was it not set properly? Was it maybe a large animal that didn’t expect it in its path?
Flabbergasted, I had it fixed and from afar enlisted a small army to mount a trail camera that allowed me to keep tabs on the site. Over the course of seven months, I received from the camera daily visual missives that became part of my morning routine. I didn’t even notice that the year was set incorrectly at first, the type of human error that abounds every January 1st, and the days and weeks that follow. I was focused on what was in the frame.
I watched my paternal family plot through the changing times of day, and through the seasons. I saw who, and what, visited— a family of deer, a lounging squirrel, a fox, and some birds. The only humans walked dogs and kept the grounds neat. I saw the foliage sprout, the vines creep, the fog roll in and burn off, and snow dust the grass, then melt as the sunlight took over the darkness. But no mourners, no family appeared in the frame, unlike the traditional visits my Eastern European forebears once kept up, as evidenced by the photos in my grandfather’s scrapbooks of his family posing with graves in the rust belt of Pennsylvania.
One day there was a summer storm, and the branch bearing the trail cam fell. Like a patient anesthetized on a table, or a body laid out for viewing at a funeral home, my visual viewpoint was now pointed up towards the sky. One of my volunteer army, my mother, put it back up. Within days, the camera disappeared.
The Victorians considered one year the mourning period for a child who lost their parent. But since it was a difficult relationship, let’s call my seven months a fulfillment of that requirement. With the anxiety-quelling cellular device gone, I had lost control. My virtual graveside visits ended in July of 2019, and my recorded mourning period was cut short half a year before the world began a collective mass-mourning.
Things are not ever the same after a parent dies. Things are also not the same after a pandemic changes everything. Losing one’s overarching direction and sense of order of the universe leaves one orphaned and unmoored. It takes some getting used to.
The camera turned up a few years later, memory card intact. By then, I was finally able to visit in person and make sense of what had happened, admit that I was grieving, and decide that enough time had passed for me to gather my wits and largely move on. The best of the 3568 pictures fell into grid form, a means for the artist to control the content. I am a daughter, and a granddaughter, and I am the parent now. And, yes, Virginia, my dad is dead.
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” These words, etched onto my grandmother’s flat gravestone nearby, come from a prayer she always recited, and even copied into her diaries. The sun rises, and the sun sets. Every single day (at least it does for now).
MOURNING by Lisa Kereszi (12 x 18.5 inches, horizontal, HC with Japanese stab binding; 32 pages, 112 photographs) with an essay by Marvin Heiferman (of the @whywelook Instagram, which is his own visual manifestation in grieving his partner, an early loss from Covid-19) is being published by Minor Matters in Seattle, crowd-sourcing all production costs with a deadline of August 1, 2023. To join as co-publisher before the deadline and get your name printed in the back of the book, visit: https://minormattersbooks.com/collections/pre-sales/products/pre-sales-mourning-by-lisa-kereszi
You can also follow Lisa on Instagram.