Colorado-based photographer James Chance won the inaugural PoYI/Reynolds Journalism Institute Emerging Vision Incentive award with his project documenting the intriguing cemetery-dwelling culture in Manila’s North Cemetery. These photographs truly speak from themselves, but here’s a snippet describing the project, in Chance’s own words:
“In the center of this bustling city of 11 million people, lies the North Cemetery. The final resting place of several Filipino Presidents, celebrities, and hundreds of thousands of the city’s Catholic dead, the cemetery is also home to a living community of more than 2,000 people.
In a country where around 40 percent of people live below the poverty line, and overpopulation in Manila is reaching desperate proportions, the cemetery provides a unique residence for the hundreds of families that live and work within its walls.
In contrast to cemeteries in the west, the North Cemetery is a busy and vibrant place. The vast and complex network of streets and alleys is tightly lined by tens of thousands of mausoleums and tombs – many of which are inhabited. Yet this is still a fully functioning cemetery, with up to 80 funerals taking place each day. The community here is strong and the stigma attached with inhabiting this location has allowed a unique ‘gated community’ to grow. Indeed, the resting place of the dead is the foundation that the living now depends upon.
This project aims to reflect the resiliency of people who lack stable housing and community infrastructure within Manila and what it takes to live in this unique environment. It is an inspirational example of people making the best out of very little, as well as an alarm bell for human rights activists, as it shows how difficult it is to find stable housing due to extreme poverty and overcrowding in the city.”