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!

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Dóiteán Cailleach (“Firewitch”): Part Three of the Elemental Witch Series

 

This third installment of the Elemental Witch photo series has been a long, long time coming; it seems only fitting to finally publish on Samhain, a traditional Gaelic festival which marks the coming of “the darker half” of the year.  

This series is as much about the land and people of British Columbia as it is about nature and magic – beginning in the forests of Surrey with Woodwitch, then following the coastline of Vancouver with Stormwitch, the “elemental” aspect of the theme provides frames within which to explore diverse landscapes and characters. 

Originally I had planned to shoot the third installment in Osoyoos, not only for its arid desert landscape but also its history – Irish-born John Carmichael Haynes was an early European settler, local dignitary, and major landowner of the town – a familiar story in the history of Canadian colonization which also reflects model Caitlin’s Irish roots; but after a location-scouting trip to Kamloops this summer I found myself smitten with its similarly semi-arid landscape and opted to relocate the shoot for aesthetic and logistic reasons.

A lot of thought and planning went into this shoot and I’d like to thank everyone that helped to realize this vision, most of all Caitlin for her commitment to the project and enthusiasm for the character.

Rather than give everything away, I invite the reader to let me know what stories you find in these images. This series continues to generate a lot of discussion among viewers and we appreciate the feedback.

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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!