The Images - Jason McKinsey

Celebrating Memories: A multi-year project documenting roadside memorials in the U.S.

The act of mourning is the focus of this project. The subject of these photos is less about the victim(s), and more about those they have left behind. Those who feel a hole in their life, left behind unexpectedly only to be filled with plastic flowers and homemade crosses.

The idea started from watching memorials spring up in locations where you otherwise wouldn't suspect an accident had happened. From your vantage point, the debris may have been cleaned and the structures repaired. But the ornamentation appears, almost like a life cycle of it's own.

This project has taken a number of years, and is nowhere near where I want to take it. There have been times that the weight of the situation settles on me, as I realize I'm standing where somebody lost their life, leaving behind a mother, father, brother, sister, wife, children and friends to pick up the pieces. For this reason, I take frequent breaks.

Rules and Processes

I set up rules for my process. I need to find the memorials organically, and prefer not to know anything about the circumstances. To know the circumstances of the accident creates an opinion of the dead. These photos are not intended to pass judgement. My process is simple. I might drive to a memorial I spotted on my way to work. Or maybe I'll pick a direction and just drive. If I feel I can capture the image I want safely, I'll pull over, set up, and start capturing the scene.

The scene is less a landscape than it is a still life, capturing the way the survivors associate their loved ones with a time and place. For me, the landscape is less important than the details. How has the space been decorated? What trinkets are associated with the victim while those around them mourn? What do the survivors hope passers-by will learn about the person they have lost?


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