Cambridge, MA

I dislike having other people around when I’m filming, photographing or recording sound in the cemetery. Somehow, having anyone else nearby puts a cork in my bottle of creativity. Against my better judgement, I agree to invite a guest along, saying I’ll text at 4:30am if I feel the cloud cover looks promising for cinematography. I hope this will be a deterrent.

“Promising for cinematography” is a complex condition. It has to do with the clouds being scattered, dark and grey on the bottom; yet light and fluffy on the top, so that the rising sun rays slant horizontally in shafts, selectively bathing specific spots while leaving other areas mysteriously dark; while a light wind whips the fog around close to the water, as in the 19th century Hudson River School paintings of J.M.W. Turner and Frederic Edwin Church. Their work has a spiritual dimension, and I hope mine does too.

The clouds frame the cemetery’s 180-year old monuments against the sky, and the lack of blazing sun encourages flying insects. This winged buffet leads to birds filling the skies and fish coming close to the surface of lakes and ponds. This draws fishing birds down to the water, where I can quickly find a focal point. Clouds, fog, birds, bugs and fish: A cinematographer’s nirvana. Just me, nature, and 98,000 graves. 

Except my guest was undeterred, meeting me at the cemetery gate at 5am. Darnit.  Putting on my friendly face, I open the locked gate and we enter. I lock it behind us.

Lately I’ve been focusing on the many graves of children in the cemetery. Judging by the numbers of tiny plots, children in 19th century Boston/Cambridge perished early and often. One small monument is particularly haunting: a child clutching a book. I’ve been photographing and filming it off and on for a couple of weeks. It's not lost on me that children are dying early and often all over the world, even now. My guest and I talk about our children. Oh God.

My guest asks excellent questions and displays interest and patience as I do my thing - basically, driving or walking around, looking in all directions at once, and occasionally planting my tripod down to squeeze off thirty to sixty seconds. I'm looking for what I call "moments". Magical specks of time when the visual and aural tableau gyrating all around us comes together: sun, clouds, wind, sky, earth, monuments, trees, fog, birds, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, wild turkeys, insects, distant auto traffic, airplanes and bullfrogs.

I glance nervously at the time, feeling like I’m getting not much accomplished, knowing that more people will soon arrive, destroying what’s left of my semi-private enjoyment.

Then, my guest suddenly whispers - “hey, look at that bird down there on the lake!”  I turn my head and there it is. A gift from Mother Nature. Suddenly a short film piece comes together in my mind's eye. I stealthily plant my tripod. And I’m really, really glad I had the foresight to invite this guest along. - Roberto

The Book, a 2-minute film and multimedia installation element by Roberto Mighty, MFA, Artist-in-Residence, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts. © 2014. Filmed on location at and made possible by Mount Auburn Cemetery, July, 2014

Roberto Mighty, MFA

• getting.older. Multimedia Installation 2015

• Truro Center for the Arts Gallery at Castle Hill 2014

• Artist-in-Residence, Mount Auburn Cemetery 2014-2015

• Trees of My City, Scandinavian Cultural Center 2013

• National Science Foundation Screening 2013

• Harvard Fisher Museum, Multimedia Installation 2013

• Artist-in-Residence, Harvard Forest 2011-2012

• MacBeth, Actors Shakespeare Company 2012

• Zalmen Or The Madness of God, The Lab at Harvard 2012

• Lesley University Gallery, Multimedia Installation 2011

• Trees of My City, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University 2011

• Online Gallery: http://roberto-mighty-rjj1.squarespace.com

Roberto Mighty is a filmmaker, new media artist, fine art photographer, educator and musician who uses storytelling, art and interactive technology in his work. He is Artist-in-Residence at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Adjunct Professor at Emerson College's Department of Visual and Media Arts, an Instructor at Boston University's College of Communication, and an instructor at American Graphics Institute.

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AuthorRoberto Mighty