Project Educate: Final Thoughts:
Final words of advice from some wonderful deviants who create within the spectrum of the dark and eerie!
Ptollemy is a lovely Australian based photographer who seems to have a knack for conceptually dark images that never cease to amaze.
1: What are some hints, tips or pointers that you could give somebody who wanted to start, not just for horror/macabre or conceptual, but for any genre?
Ptollemy - "Shoot as often as you can and shoot what you love.
Look for the story in the image. What do you want the image to say?
Be creative and don’t be afraid of something not working out the way you first planned. Sometimes “failures” can lead to great idea and great images.
Your own style is something that develops over time. Keep doing the best you can, experiment with new lighting, subjects and locations.
Most of all keep shooting. The more you shoot the better your photography will become."
2:You have a knack for interesting lighting - You can create a mood easily. What do you do to experiment for your shoots for their lighting?
Ptollemy - "Lighting is important but don’t forget about the shadows. These help shape your image, add mood and atmosphere, and help draw the attention to the part of the image you want to emphasize.
Not all light is equal. Hard direct light will have a very different effect on your subject to softer defused light. Play with different lighting to get to know what the different light looks like.
I don’t do as much lighting experimenting as I used to because I have done so much I know my lighting equipment really well and what type of light they will give me. But you don’t need fancy expensive equipment to get into lighting. Start with window light or a desk lamp. If the lighting is too direct or two harsh, hang a white bed sheet if front of it [but far enough away that it’s not a safety hazard ]."
3: Is it easy to find models for your work? Do you come up with your ideas or are they the models, or a mixture of both, and how do you make them come to life, so to speak, once they are formulated?
Ptollemy - "It is not always easy to find models for my work because I am not just looking for beautiful young fashion models. I am always looking for interesting faces, the more interesting the better. Sometimes this involves beauty, but that is not my main priority.
I shoot my own ideas; I’m always thinking “what if” and find inspiration all over the place. I watch a lot of old black and white movies; even B grade films can have the most fabulous lighting. I also haunt junk shops and second hand stores for interesting bits and pieces that can spark ideas.
When I’m putting the image together to shoot I usually have a general theme in mind, and very occasionally I know exactly the image I’m aiming for. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and you need to be willing to say “okay that didn’t work, what is plan B?” and try something else. Do I need to change the lighting? Is the camera angle working, is it the location?
And most importantly are you having fun? For me, if I’m having a good time I know I’ll get great images even it is takes a while."
Ptollemy _ "One of the best things I did for myself was to get an objective portfolio review by a photographer who’s opinion I respected. It wasn’t easy to sit there and listen to someone give construction criticism to my favourite images but it was really good for me to take a step back and look at how I could improve my work.
It really helped a lot and it’s something I plan to do once or twice a year. Because for me photography is a keeper, and I want to continue to create the best images I can."
slephoto shoots a wide variety of genres, and his images are always interesting and done with attention to detail. Here are his words of wisdom.
1: You shoot a lot of different styles, and work with a lot of models. How do you choose them and what do you look for when you pick up a new person to photograph, especially for horror?
slephoto - "Well, sometimes people approach me for things. People will find my work and say "ooo, I like this or that, can we do it?" Sometimes I'll approach people and say "Here's my work, what do you like?" Sometimes I ask them to take part in particular things, and sometimes I approach them based on past work they have done. So there's no solid answer to this question.
Slightly longer bit, can be edited:
I do have issues sometimes in my process because sometimes I think of a concept & anyone can fit, sometimes I think of a concept & can't make it work because it needs a "look" I can find. The worst for me, though, is that sometimes I see a person & an idea formed around them pops in my head & I can never make it work with anyone else. That sucks."
2: You have a distinctive grainy style in your horror work. How did you come by doing that, was it intentional? Do you use it all the time for those pieces you shoot which are a little more controversial?
slephoto - "I'm an old film guy, and I always liked really contrasty grainy work. You can see it in my film shots, like this slephoto.deviantart.com/art/Mi…. I like to use that in my horror, often using things like deliberate underexposure, for a couple of reasons. One, the whole super sharp super clear very "real" look of some things, like the modern "Saw" type films, for instance, is almost TOO real for me for horror. I think my style gives a little distance that, in some ways, makes it creepier. My "Babab Yaga" image, for instance, would just look weird if it was clear and sharp.
Two, I grew up on trashy low budget horror films from the 60's to the mid 80's that were often low budget & consequently shot with a creepy look because of the old film stock & poor gear available. The original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," which was shot on pawnshop cameras with leftover scraps of expired film, is a great example. Much like Rob Zombie works to copy that look in his films, I pay homage to it in my work."
3: Do you feel it is something you have to defend, being a photographer who not only shoots death and decay and scary things, but also fetish and nude?
slephoto - "Sometimes. Not out of defense of my doing it, but out of defense of the genres. Believe it or not, I get more grief for my horror work than my fetish work or more sexually oriented work. Sure, I get the same knocks as everyone else about being a "pornographer" or "degrader of women," but the real shock was when I got my first horror DD and had people quite seriously accusing me of having actually murdered the model, or saying my work would create IRL serial killers. Some of that was pretty hard to take.
Generally with the critics I'll attempt to engage them in civil dialog if they start out reasonably. If they can't hack it, I stop talking to them. If they start off rudely I'll ignore them or, depending on how rude they are, politely tell them to go perform an anatomically impossible sexual act on themselves. The only time I REALLY get offended, though (like I said, I've been doing this a LONG time and have had to tolerate a LOT of criticism so I'm used to it), is when someone attacks the models I work with. There's no excuse for that."
4: Any advice or hints or tips for people out there who want to start trying (either fetish/nude OR horror!) themselves?
slephoto - "Learn something about photography! Seriously! Don't start out saying "Well I can point the camera, shoot a bunch, and do something in PS after." Take some damn pride in what you're doing, learn the basics, and study what's come before to get some idea of how to do things. Learn a few rules before you break them.
For fetish & nude, especially for the guys out there, take a good hard look at your motives. If you're thinking this's a way to bang hot chicks, or your way to get a peep show with a permanent record, reconsider. Models aren't hookers or strippers, and your attitude is going to make it harder for people who're legit. Plus you get better pics if you're thinking with your lens and not other protruding... things.
For horror, learn some damn safety! When I set a model on fire, I studied how to do it with pros & shot with assistants & an EMT on set. When I put blood in a model's eye, I bought specially made blood JUST for eyes so I didn't blind her. When I shot a model with a chainsaw, I made sure the blade was off. THINK about what you're doing!
For any of the above, think long & hard about it. People will know who you are, and they'll judge you for it. Once you do it & it's out there, it won't go away. You'll lose friends & have others maybe not want to be your friends because of it, ditto for family. You never know when it might cause a job issue... I went to California a few years ago (pre Facebook) for an interview in an unrelated field and the company owner came by to say he was concerned about how my work would reflect on his company. Decide if it's worth it to you to explore the dark places of the human psyche, 'cause some folks don't like those of us who shin a light there."
slephoto - "Lastly, if you want to do it WELL then there's something in you drawing you to the field, and that means you have to shine that light in to the corners of your OWN mind first, and that's scariest of all. If you've got the guts to do that, you should do well."
Welcome to Horror/Macabre Photography Week!
A Brief History of Horror
Project Educate: Suggesting Horror/Macabre Daily Deviations!
Project Educate: An Interview with Anathema-Photography!
Project Educate: Variations of Sinister
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Project Educate: Group Work
Project Educate: Tutorial Tips