One of the greatest pleasures derived from writing a horror blog is meeting so many interesting people involved creatively with the horror genre and how they express themselves through the moving image, the written and spoken word, a chilling melody or ominous sound, nightmarish illustration, or a fiendish photograph that freezes horror for one lasting moment in time, somewhere between our feet dangling into the deepest pit of our fears and the tips of our fingers holding fast to the shorn edge of our reason.
I'm not quite sure whether photographer Joshua Hoffine has lost his grip yet, but let's chat with him while we still can about his morbid curiosity getting the better of him, and his nightmarish visions clouding his better judgment; in other words, his freaking-me-out photographs of horror.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND MUTATE FROM WHOLESOME SUBJECTS TO FANTASTIC HORROR?
I started making photographs shortly after graduating from college with a degree in English Literature. My original portfolio of photographs was very dark and disturbing. At that time, I was interested in Frederick Sommer and Joel Peter Witkin, and was creating proto-horror assemblages that sometimes included animal parts. I landed an internship with Nick Vedros, who is the biggest photographer in my hometown of Kansas City, and Nick encouraged me to make my work more palatable to survive as a commercial photographer. From Nick I moved onto Hallmark Cards, which is also based in my hometown.
At Hallmark I mastered the art of making things pretty. I left after only 18 months, and started shooting weddings. With the free time and resources that wedding photography afforded me, I began my first project as a mature photographer, a series of horror photographs called After Dark, My Sweet. Without a gallery or an agent or an audience of any sort, I drove my family into poverty time and time again as I self-financed this costly work. My images are not photoshop collages, but meticulously lit performances caught on camera. I build sets, and use costumes, elaborate props, special effects make-up, and fog machines to bring my ideas to life. I am only restrained by budget.
WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS? HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH THE SITUATIONS YOU DEPICT?
From my own memories and fears, as well as the fears of my children. There are sometimes allusions to specific horror films or fairy tales. I am especially attracted to any fears that might be considered universal - like the fear of a monster or boogeyman lurking under your bed.
I FOUND 'CELLAR' PARTICULARLY DISTURBING, AND EVOCATIVE OF J-HORROR NIGHTMARE. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS ONE?
That image is directly inspired by Henrietta bursting out of the earthen floor of the fruit cellar in Evil Dead 2.
MANY OF YOUR PHOTOS HAVE A LITTLE BLOND-HAIRED GIRL IN THEM. WHO IS SHE? WHY NOT USE A LITTLE BOY INSTEAD?
The Little Girl is played, alternately by my daughters Shiva or Chloe. I chose to use a Little Girl because it carries more archetypal power, and references other Little Girl characters like Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy in Oz. In my work, like everywhere else, the Little Girl symbolizes innocence and wonder. Simultaneously, the work possesses a subtext about child predation - which is more easily conveyed, I feel, by using a little girl rather than a little boy. I am interested in the operation of subtext and metaphor in Horror.
I'LL ASSUME YOUR A HORROR FAN IN GENERAL. WHICH ARE YOUR FAVORITE MONSTERS AND WHY?
My favorite monsters include Rob Bottin's work on The Thing, the original Nosferatu, Chris Cunningham's Rubber Johnny, and the child-devouring ogre in Pan's Labrynth. Because they are perfect.
DO YOU DO COMMISSIONED WORK; FOR INSTANCE, TAKE SOMEONE'S NIGHTMARE IDEA AND PHOTOGRAPH IT FOR THEM?
I do commissioned work all the time, mostly for bands and musicians with independent record labels. There is no art director with small labels, so I'm able to write an original piece tailored just for the musician. My most recent work was done for a Detroit rapper named Prozak. Some of his work has a political streak through it, so I wrote 'Uncle Sam' for him to use as artwork on his CD. Other times, he just had a prop he was interested in, like a gas mask or a chainsaw - and I'd hammer out a scenario to go shoot. We're gearing up to do another one in fact, based on The Slumber Party Massacre.
WHAT'S THE ONE QUESTION I SHOULD BE ASKING BUT DIDN'T? AND WHAT'S YOUR ANSWER?
Question: Do you still shoot weddings?
Answer: About 20 a year. But under a fake name.
Now that is truly frightening, indeed! You can shudder at Joshua Hoffine's photographic horrors at http://joshuahoffine.com.