Morrissey: a cemetery lover and dark romanticBefore we admire the photos, let’s dig into the symbolism of the subject. A cemetery is the final resting place where we bury our loved ones. When we apply some self-reflection and a decent amount of death awareness, we will soon realize it is also the place where we will end up ourselves. Cemeteries not only remind us of having to say goodbye to the people in our lives, but also of having to say goodbye to life ourselves. This way, a cemetery visit can be a practice in contemplating mortality. There is a certain sense of melancholy that comes with being aware of the impermanence of life. Death is both a deeply existential subject and a spiritual one. Tapping into this and exploring what death truly means to us can bring us great insights that help us shape our lives in a way that feels right to us. It’s no wonder that mortality is a big source of inspiration to artists, writers, poets, and musicians such as Morrissey. Through his cemetery portraits, Steven Patrick Morrissey embraces his mortal side, and in a way, invites the viewer to do the same. To see the beauty in decay. To love death the same way one loves life. As his lyrics go:
Morrissey headstone promo shots by Jo NovarkPossibly the most famous cemetery shots of Morrisey were shot by photographer Jo Novark. Jo was also known as The Smiths’ press officer Pat Bellis. Morrissey poses with a headstone that carries his family name. Found on the web: “Morrissey admits to an obsession with death and a fascination with tragic figures, like James Dean, who died in a car crash at age 24, and Oscar Wilde, who was imprisoned for his homosexuality and later died destitute at age 46. He told Spin magazine in 1988: “I have a dramatic, unswayable, unavoidable obsession with death. If there was a magical, beautiful pill that would retire you from this world, I think I would take it.” I found ten pictures of this photoshoot, but suspect there must be more.
Suedehead video: Morrissey at James Dean’s graveMorrissey’s video for the song Suedehead includes a scene that is shot at a cemetery. Park Cemetery to be exact, in Fairmount, Indiana, the hometown of the late actor James Dean. Morrissey copies a photograph of James Dean who poses with the headstone of Cal Dean, who is thought to be James Dean’s grandfather. Morrissey had a strong fascination for Dean. In 1981 he even wrote a book about the American actor, James Dean is Not Dead. It is said that Morrissey had developed such a strong love of Dean he had covered his bedroom with pictures of the dead film star. In an interview about his love for the movie icon, Morrissey explains his obsession as follows:
“I saw Rebel Without A Cause quite by accident when I was about 6. I was entirely enveloped. I did research about him and it was like unearthing Tutankhamun’s tomb. His entire life seemed so magnificently perfect. What he did on film didn’t stir me that much, but as a person, he was immensely valuable. Everything from his birth in a farming town to coming to New York, breaking into film, and finding he didn’t really want it when he had enormous success. At school it was an absolute drawback because nobody really cared about him. If they did, it was only in a synthetic rock and roll way. Nobody had a passion for him as I did – for that constant uneasiness with life. Even though he was making enormous strides with his craft, he was still incredibly miserable and obviously doomed. Which is exactly the quality Oscar Wilde had. That kind of mystical knowledge that there is something incredibly black around the corner. People who feel this are quite special and always end up in quite a mangled mess.”