Monday, December 31, 2012

Photography and Death (A visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery)

Père Lachaise Cemetery is one of the oldest burial sites in Paris, hundreds of famous people, of all nationalities are buried there. Every thing from writers to dictators, painters to composers, are represented on the crowded headstones, squeezed into the equally crowded streets of Paris. Three of the people interned at Père Lachaise that caught my attention were Frédéric Chopin, the Polish composer, Oscar Wilde, the Irish writer, and Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican dictator. (I was only able to find Chopin's grave.)

 Frédéric Chopin
 Frédéric Chopin was a Polish composer and pianist born in 1810, near Warsaw, Poland. He was widely regarded as a child-prodigy and one of the greatest romantic composers of all time. He wrote most of his well known works before he left Poland in 1830, shortly before the uprising in November 1830, and the consequent Russian suppression. He moved to Paris where he supported himself by selling his compositions and teaching piano. The bulk of Chopin's work is for solo piano, and are often very demanding on the artist, requiring great technical skill and an attention to nuance and expression. Chopin gave only 30 or so public performances during his 19 years in Paris, he died of poor health in 1849, at the age of 39.

Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer, poet, and playwright, born in 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. Wilde is best known for the play The Importance of Being Ernest, which he wrote in 1895. He is also known for being a prolific London journalist who had a biting wit, a flamboyant style, and glittering conversation. In 1896 he was arrested, charged, and imprisoned for gross indecency with other men. He served two years of hard labour, and upon release fled to Paris. He died there in 1900, destitute, at age 46.

Rafael Trujillo
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until he was assassinated in 1961. Officially he ruled the country as president from 1930 to 1938, and again from 1942 to 1952, however during the intervening and following years he ruled as an un-elected strongman. The 30 years of his rule was one of the bloodiest dictatorships ever in the Americas. Estimates calculate that more than 50,000 people died during his rule, including 20 to 30 thousand who were killed during the infamous Parsley Massacre. Trujillo was assassinated in 1961 in an attempted coup, that the CIA may have been involved in, he was buried first in his home town in the Dominican Republic, then in Paris, then in the El Pardo cemetery near Madrid, Spain.

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