One Night in the Witch House

Here he knew strange things had happened once, and there was a faint suggestion behind the surface that everything of that monstrous past might not—at least in the darkest, narrowest, and most intricately crooked alleys—have utterly perished.

H.P. Lovecraft, The Dreams in the Witch House

The story quoted above remains my favourite work of fiction by Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the reclusive 20th century author from Providence, Rhode Island who singlehandedly invented a genre of “weird” fiction that began in obscure pulp fiction periodicals and has, in one way or another, influenced virtually every afficionado of dark art thereafter.  

Initially this shoot was intended to serve as a demonstration of my work with kids portraits for a local trade event but its content ultimately seemed far too dark for the average parent of a young child – fortunately that didn’t stop Dahlya and Poppy from volunteering to be my mom-and-daughter modeling team! 

The Dreams in the Witch House stands apart from Lovecraft’s other stories as (in my opinion) his most realistically speculative work of fiction: beginning with a reference to non-Euclidean calculus and quantum physics in the third paragraph, it remains the one story that has a plausible albeit quasi-scientific theory at its heart and quickly establishes a heavy atmosphere of mystery and occult dread in an ancient, crumbling corner of the fictitious town of Arkham. 

Further, Lovecraft relies on a very specific device to herald the presence of the story’s titular witch – an “unearthly violet phosphorescence.” In attempting to create that effect I stumbled into more familiar visual territory and seemingly recreated the lighting of Italian film director Dario Argento’s similarly witchcraft-themed masterpiece, Suspiria

Those of you familiar with Lovecraft’s story probably don’t need any further explanation but I’m going to stop there anyway because I hope the images that follow will tell their own story with at least a modicum of Lovecraftian dread on this cold and dark Samhain evening.

(Thanks again to Dahlya and Poppy for their participation in this shoot, which I’m sure will be responsible for a few nightmares among viewers tonight.)

Happy Halloween, everyone!

***

Dark Festivities Continue!

It’s been nearly a month since my “Black Metal Walpurgisnacht” photo series originally appeared at Factory Worker Media (apparently setting a record for most traffic in a single day!) and, beginning tomorrow, I’ll be back in Vancouver to cover Modified Ghost Festival for the second year in a row!

To celebrate, not only will I be reposting the Walpurgisnacht gallery here (once a technical issue is fixed on the server end), but any last-minute Vancouver-area bookings for daytime shoots over the next four days (25-28 May 2017) will be eligible for a 25% “dark days” discount. Give me a shout to schedule yours now!

Thanks once again to everyone who participated in and showed their support for the Walpurgisnacht project (which was just the beginning – keep an eye out for more details)! 😉

Stormwitch (Part Two of the Elemental Witch Series)

From the "Stormwitch" series
From the "Stormwitch" photo series
From the “Stormwitch” photo series with Kas

Picking up where “Woodwitch” left off, “Stormwitch” follows the Elemental Witch Series from its earthy origins to the rocky shores of West Vancouver. Acknowledging both the element of water and the nomadic spirit of life on the coast, this portrait set envisions nature as a hermit whose solitary life on the beach marks a convergence of the elements – a place where water touches land and sky – and a neverending procession of ocean weather systems briskly passes overhead while each shift of the tide washes up some mysterious new bit of flotsam and jetsam.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Elemental Witch series!

 

Woodwitch (Part One of the Elemental Witch Series)

From the "Woodwitch" portrait series with Casper Macabre

As I’m just about to post the second photoset in the elemental witch series, here is the image that inspired my personal creative direction for the year, photographically speaking:

"Woodwitch"
“Woodwitch”

An introductory essay about the set appears alongside its photo album on Facebook, from which I’ll quote here:

The main inspiration for this series came from walking through various wooded parklands and forests in Surrey, Vancouver, and Squamish, and watching how people treat these spaces as harmless sites for personal recreation – often in a very casual and disrespectful manner. For anyone that has ever been alone in the woods at night, there is the distinct feeling that life is stirring all around us, unseen in the shadows. It’s easy to forget that when the sun is shining and we feel safe, but as we recall when we breathe the smoke of distant brushfires or feel the earth quake beneath our feet, we remain subject to nature’s law – our privileged place at the top of the food chain isn’t guaranteed at all – we survive because nature allows it. The figure of the woodwitch is the archetypal “dark mother” who appears to remind us that there is indeed a price to pay for disrespecting her rules – so it’s best to stay on her good side.

That said, here again are several of the images first seen in the Facebook photo album, along with a few new additions – also check out “Stormwitch“, the next installment of the elemental witch photo series!

 

Halloween-Themed Portraits Continued: Picturesque Lurching with Zombie William

Zombie William

In keeping with October’s seasonal festivity, last weekend our zombie apocalypse continued its spread north from the site of first infection at Confederation Park (see: Emily of the Dead) to disturb the peace at Mountain View Cemetery. Undeterred by the final remnants of Typhoon Songda, Zombie William leisurely staggered between the headstones after a gory jogger’s-brain buffet.

We’re still booking Halloween-themed portraits (group rates available) so if you’d like to preserve your spooky look all year round without resorting to embalming, contact us now!

(Click to enlarge images)

Halloween-themed Portraiture: Emily of the Dead

Emily of the Dead

October is my favourite time of the year not only for the changing colours of autumn leaves and cooler temperatures but also for the seasonal festivities surrounding Halloween and Samhain. Throw in a lifelong love of horror films and you know where this is heading!

Following in the silent, malevolent footsteps of the Woodwitch photo series, “Emily of the Dead” was shot on location at the railway tracks bordering Confederation Park in Vancouver, adjacent to the local Chevron refinery. Knowing how detrimental petroleum products are to the natural environment, in my opinion there are few things more ominous than a convoy of oil tankers thundering down Willingdon Avenue after dark, transporting dangerous and destructive cargo like a virus coursing through the veins of our civilization.

From that standpoint it’s not difficult to make the mental leap to thoughts of the zombie phenomenon in popular culture: since George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead we have been fascinated by these creatures and in their various guises we continue to see dark, ruined reflections of ourselves that hint at the impending disastrous effects of climate change caused by global industrialization.

That’s a heavy load on any zombie’s shoulders, but Emily held up like a champ. Inspired by some railway imagery in a previous season of The Walking Dead TV series, I wanted to revisit Romero’s original zombie aesthetic while hinting at the aforementioned postindustrial fallout.

I’m still booking Halloween-themed portrait shoots throughout the month of October (and beyond – Halloween is every day, as far as I’m concerned), so do get in touch if you’re interested to monster up!

UPDATE: I’ve added a few select images from this series to the Factotum shop on RedBubble here.

Skeleton Princess!

The first fallen leaf of the season.

This little lady was excited to start Halloween early! Dressing up as a skeleton complete with facepaint for this shoot at Green Timbers Urban Forest in Surrey was a big hit with passersby and even one curious little dog!

Compared to working with adults, photographing kids is a different sort of challenge – they’re more prone to distraction and, given their higher rate of metabolism, they get hungry and/or sleepy faster than their grownup counterparts – fortunately, having a parent or guardian on hand for the shoot provides a focal point that kids can come back to whenever their attention wanders.

September being back-to-school season, I wanted to offer a fun alternative to the traditional class picture photo packages common at this time of year. Kids love to play and pretend and, given free rein to do so, it makes for much more animated and memorable portrait images. Myself and Port Coquitlam photographer/facepainter Katie May are currently booking “Halloween in the Woods” packages for shooting in the month of October, which this year has FIVE whole weekends before Halloween (!!!)

Enjoy the fun and spooky “spirit” of this shoot and, if you’re ready for a little adventure in the woods, give us a call!

(Click to enlarge images)