Cities of the Dead by Margaret Morton

Hardcover, 128 pages
Publisher: University of Washington Press (November 2014)
Language: English
Selected by Barbara Epler

“Morton’s work in capturing the deep beauty of the only Kyrgyzstan native architecture astonishes. As a nomadic people, the only buildings they traditionally constructed were tombs. One takes them at first for real cities, and then for dream cities, and finally one becomes aware of how imperilled these utterly unique structures are. But it is the beauty of the images that first seizes your heart.” —Barbara Epler

Kyrgyzstan lies west of China, in the heart of Central Asia. A crossroads of religious cultures, its burial traditions are the focus of Margaret Morton’s book. It is not Kyrgyz tradition to visit graveyards, so its cemeteries are decrepit. Islam discourages decorative tombstones, so these necropoleis are unique, mixing nomadic tradition and Muslim architectural forms. Morton’s work is rooted in dwellings – she has photographed the makeshift houses of homeless people in New York since 1989 and her work shows a delicate interest in the architectural elements of these cities of the dead.

During the Soviet period, graves and monuments were fixed with Russian-style enamel portraits of the dead. Today, many Kyrgyz graves still show a Soviet influence.


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