Photographs of the Historic Key West Cemetery by Michael A. Philip
Poetry by Aicercul 

Based on Michael’s photographic exhibition at The Studios of Key West, see below to learn more about his inspiration for this project.


Michael A. Philip is a freelance photographer based in Key West. The photographs in this book represent his growing portfolio of award-winning fine art images. Michael has had a long fascination with Key West's historic cemetery (c.1847), located in the center of Old Town. The whitewashed above-ground tombs and statues attract hundreds of tourists each year. What interests Michael most are the flowers and offerings mourners leave behind. He takes his inspiration from the still life paintings of the Dutch Masters whose attention to color, composition, and 'incidental' objects reveal important clues about their subjects' lives. Alongside the photographs poetry in Spanish with English translation give voice to the cemetery's rich, diverse history.

Michael’s photographic essay explores Key West’s Historic Cemetery. His vibrant photographic series of flowers, cemetery monuments and crypts becomes a metaphor for the contrasts between the romantic idealization and the stark physicality of death. The book is a reflection on how we remember our dead. The three sections of the book are named after Spanish poems written by Cuban author, Aicercul with English translation by Maria L. Del Riesgo, Michael A. Philip and Maureen Tracy Venti. The poetry frames the narrative of Michael’s photographic journey and gives voice to the cemetery’s rich, diverse history.

The first section entitled “Flores” (Flowers) features Michael’s large flower photographic prints. The intensity of the colors evokes the emotional state immediately following a death. Family are distraught and pre-occupied with arrangements for wake, funeral and burial. During this time mourners offer comfort, flowers, pay respects and attend memorial services. In Key West as in other communities, the custom of leaving silk and plastic flowers keeps the graves decorated after fresh flowers have decayed.

The second section “Exilio” (Exile) uses Michael’s black and white photographs to represent the next stage of grief when, after the activity of the funeral has subsided, the permanence of death is felt most profoundly. As with an exile separated by oceans from home and loved ones, the living are left behind longing for the presence of the departed. Toward the end of this section, the photographs are sepia-toned, as those who are grieving begin to heal.

The third section, “Descanso” (Repose) represents the stage of acceptance. The softer colors in these photographs represent muted grief. Those left behind make peace with the loved one’s death, both in their own way at rest. As visits to the cemetery become less frequent even the artificial flowers gradually fade, like memories passing with generations.

The book’s 6x9 inch format is designed to have an intimate feel. The book was printed in full color by a state-of-the-art digital printing process on archival, high quality, acid free, coated matte photographic paper with chemical free ink. The hard cover and dust jacket are both in full color.