What follows is a short photographic essay about the “gravestone murals” in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. These murals live (and die) through the beneficence of the owners of the buildings they are painted on. Because these murals are not sanctioned public art, they have no protections. The thrill of coming across one is tempered by encountering a blank wall where a loved mural has been erased. Once erased, their finality is death-like; once gone, we cannot get these murals back. As the murals disappear, what are we losing? And what do they mean if there is no one alive who remembers the dead the murals celebrate? These murals are loved and respected by the citizenry, however, so much so that there are thousands of photographs of them posted on the Web. Still, there is nothing like an urban gravestone in situ, a commemoration most likely, one imagines, painted near where the dead person lived or hung out. Once the murals are reduced to photographs alone, their power has been halved, if not totally neutered.
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