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  • Writer's pictureCristina Mittermeier

Through the Lens of Eternity: Life, Death, and Dia de los Muertos

As the days grow shorter and nights longer, we enter a season of reflection that forces us to navigate turbulent emotions surrounding death, rebirth and gratitude. With the approaching holidays and winter's chill, November becomes a month of contrasting sentiments. While it's a time for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and celebrations with loved ones, it's also a month of sorrow, marked by memories of those no longer with us.

A family and a hired trio band gather around the grave of a deceased loved one. They clean the stone, lay out flowers, light candles and leave gifts behind in anticipation of the return of their spirit to the material plane.

The darkening nights have a way of deepening our reflections, not just about our past and future but also about the world we inhabit, which seems filled with heartbreaking news and preventable losses. The recent years have tested us all, leaving us to yearn for moments of peace and time with loved ones.

Year after year, in early November, all Mexicans engage in a celebration for the Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. This traditional festival is a fusion of indigenous traditions from pre-Columbian times with a great tinge of Spanish colonial influence.

I love it because it reminds us that death is an intrinsic part of life and offers an opportunity to remember and celebrate all our loved ones who have departed.

Understanding and accepting this universal truth is vital in Mexican culture, as it allows for a more profound and joyous appreciation of life.

A woman dressed as the Catrina lights candles at the Xoxo cemetery in Puebla

On the Dia de Muertos, the boundary between the living and the dead blurs as the underworld's gates open and spirits can come through. The living are waiting for them with elaborate ofrendas, or altars, adorned with candles, pungent marigolds, the sweet scent of pan de muerto, and intricately decorated sugar skulls. Others sit around festooned graves in the cemetery, waiting for the spirits to arrive. Calaveras, including the iconic La Catrina, symbolize the impermanence of life and the folly of materialism. La Catrina, a ubiquitous character, was created as a satire of the excesses of Dictator Porfirio Diaz's regime in Mexico, which ultimately led to the Mexican Revolution. La Catrina reminds us to be humble, emphasizing that we cannot take our material possessions with us when it is our turn to depart.

Model Lissandra Shr. depicting La Llorona,the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman, wades through the shallows off the coast of La Paz.

For a few festive days, I try to capture the essence of Dia de los Muertos, illustrating that death is not an end but a continuation of life in a different form. The vibrant colours of the street parades, cemeteries, and shops and the joyful remembrance of our beloved departed serve as a potent reminder that we only die when our loved ones forget about us.

I owe the opportunity to participate in this incredible event to the Masters of Photography, who have been working with me to share this experience and all my accumulated knowledge of three decades as a professional photographer with you in a Master Class released later this year. We have prepared a series of online courses where I share everything I know about photography. I illustrate many of my techniques by creating a story on the Day of the Dead in several locations in Mexico. The photographs I took during this journey fill me with pride in the rich tapestry of Mexican culture I was born into, and I'm thrilled to share this experience with you.


Coming Soon!

In my Masterclass you’ll learn the power of photography in digital storytelling and to take impactful images that help us understand the urgency to protect wild places. I will show you how to create imagery that engages people in conversations and move them into action.


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