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!