Julie Dermansky was born in New York and raised in New Jersey, but after earning a degree from Tulane University and returning years later in 2009 to officially call New Orleans home, it’s safe to say that the culture has grown on her.
While much of Julie’s time is spent on assignments covering breaking news and events, like most prolific artists, she can’t help but to find inspiration all around her — even close to home, prompting her New Orleans Graveyard project.
“I have always been drawn to cemeteries everywhere I visit because I feel that they tell a lot about a culture. Like everything else in New Orleans, the cemeteries are rich with symbolism and have an ethereal quality,” Julie explains.
We asked her a few more questions about her work and passion for these spectacular New Orleans landmarks.
CORBIS: If you were going to recommend three graveyards to visit in New Orleans, which would they be?
JULIE: Well I would have to put down four and recommend eliminating whichever one visitors don’t have time for.
Saint Roch Cemetery, known as Campo Santo, is a smaller less well-known cemetery with a shrine to St. Roch where people leave offerings next to the chapel. Saint Louis Cemetery is the best cemetery on the border of the French Quarter. Lafayette Cemetery is the best cemetery in the Garden district, and Metairie Cemetery is also a favorite because it is exceptionally elegant, large, and historic.
CORBIS: Do people in New Orleans have more respect for their graveyards? What part do they play in peoples’ lives?
JULIE: Graveyards are part of the city’s culture so they get more attention than in other cities, I’d say. They are not respected by all though. Many cemeteries have been pillaged for their beautiful sculptures. Things have been stolen and damaged by vandals right from tombs and graves.
CORBIS: What efforts were made to restore graveyards that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina?
JULIE: Ironically Katrina didn’t do too much damage to the cemeteries — just some wind damage and down trees. The NGO ’Save our cemeteries’ got a flood of donations since many who have visited the city have fallen in love with them.
People far and wide who identify New Orleans cemeteries with the city sent money. They really are one of the treasures of the city.
The cemeteries were already in need of restoration funds so the donations were much appreciated and put to good use.
CORBIS: Which is your favorite to shoot? Why?
JULIE: I have two: The Metairie Cemetery, one of the largest, because it has so many ornate tombs. No matter how many times I visit, I find something new. Also, The Carrolton Cemetery uptown, which is near where I live. When the light becomes dramatic I can walk over and find magical compositions. It is a great place to chase rainbows. When I think, “hmm, this is rainbow weather”, I stroll over and have found one on a couple of occasions.
See more of Julie’s work here.