Twelve years ago, on a trip to the Philippines, photographer Keith Marlowe began visiting Manila’s cemeteries, hoping to shoot its picturesque, New Orleans-style raised tombs. But instead of quiet refuges for the dead, he saw extraordinary settlements of the living: thousands of poverty-stricken Filipinos, who had made squatter’s homes above the graves and bones. Despite the macabre setting, he knew that this was really a story about life, and the struggle to survive in one of the world’s most crowded cities. In this gallery, Marlowe — who has photographed dire situations everywhere from Haiti to Detroit for LIFE.com — shares his unique photographic perspective on these graveyard settlements.
Pictured: Children of Manila’s Makati Catholic Cemetery.