Crouch End and Battleground
This is it; the final hours before Halloween, the ultimate day of horror. That time of year when all the creatures trapped in your nightmares are given free reign of the world. It’s a time to trust your imagination, to believe that the monsters under your bed are real and hungry. It’s a time to face your fears because they are coming for you and they are more powerful than ever before.
This week, I present two of my favorite horror stories. One is a twisted walk through a town out of time, the other is a battle of wits and rage.
I’ve seen a lot of strange things in Crouch End. If you’re here half as long as I’ve been, you’ll see your share too. There are more strange things happen right here in this quiet six or eight blocks than anywhere else in London…
From the collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes.
There is a small section of a small borough in London called Crouch End. You can visit, if you like, but don’t lose your way. Sometimes, especially late at night, those who get lost never come back.
But sometimes, they do. And they tell stories of horror and demons. Of malformed, inhuman creatures and archaic incantations. Of death, slaughter and and monsters. You see, Crouch End is not an ordinary place. Somewhere, deep within the twisted streets, the walls of reality get blurry and things come through.
This was the first image in the series I envisioned, the image that started it all. Elizabeth and I covered the back of our closet in posterboard and she scribbled that chilling phrase over and over, much like what happens in the real story.
The newspaper article was created in Photoshop afterwards, and was probably the most complicated aspect of the image. I used a real newspaper clipping and replaced the headline with my own. That headline, “60 Lost in Underground Horror”, along with the writing scrawled on the wall, “Beware the Goat with a Thousand Young”, have always stuck with me, and made Crouch End one of my favorite horror stories of all time.
There was a tiny, coughing explosion and blinding agony ripped his thigh. One of the bazooka men had come out of the footlocker. A small curl of smoke rose lazily from his weapon…The little bastard shot me!
From the collection Night Shift.
Renshaw kills people for money. It’s a living. Because of his chosen occupation, and because he’s good at it, he sometimes makes enemies.
But he’s never made enemies like this before.
One night, Renshaw receives a small footlocker full of toy soldiers – the little green army men everyone had as kids. But there’s something different about this battalion. They carry real weapons. They use real military tactics. And they want Renshaw dead.
To his horror, Renshaw must turn his apartment into a battleground; waging a one – man war against the tiny soldiers. A war that only one of them will survive…
This was an incredibly fun image to create. Shot in my bathroom and lit by a low scoop light in the sink, I feel this image excellently captures the rage, desperation and claustrophobia of the story. I processed the shot in a “Band of Brothers” style, pulling out almost all saturation and adding lots of grain in post. I’m really pleased with the blood on my cheek…it reminds me of Watchmen.
I have a final image in the series, but I was delayed by the hurricane. I’ll be adding it later this week, along with a longer reflection on the process of making these images.
Happy Halloween guys! I hope it’s a scary one!
The Road Virus Heads North and Sneakers
This week, we’re going to deal with the horror that lies just outside your field of view; the monster lurking just around the corner or the killer crouching in the back seat of your car. This week, it’s about knowing that what you fear is out there, waiting for you to move, to look up and to see it coming.
Because this week, the horror is coming for you.
As this week’s images are larger than normal, I highly recommend clicking them and viewing the full res versions of flickr.
The Road Virus Heads North
The picture was still there, but it had changed once more. Now it showed two glaring white circles – headlights – with the dark shape of the car hulking behind them. “He’s on the move again,” Kinnell thought…
From the collection Everything’s Eventual.
It was a painting titled “The Road Virus Heads North.” It depicted a man driving a muscle car down a dark road, grinning like a homicidal maniac, and Richard Kinnell couldn’t refuse it. He found it at a yard sale and, being a horror writer, had to buy it.
But Kinnell slowly begins to wonder if this painting is not just canvas and oil. Its creator, a tortured artist who was driven to suicide by his hallucinations. And the more he looks at it, the more it changes; first the background and then the maniac himself. It changes until Kinnell can recognize the path the Road Virus is traveling, and see the tide of destruction it leaves in its wake.
As he watches the Road Virus cut across the Maine countryside, Kinnell realizes with horror: the maniac is following him home.
My original intention was to use the mirror around the fireplace to depict the Road Virus sneaking up on on its helpless victim. However, when testing the shot out, I found it worked better as a panorama of the room. It leads you from the brighter right side to the darker left side and reveals the horror so much more effectively.
My good friend Samuel Hall played the Road Virus. I shot a second picture of him from a different, lower angle and converted it into the painting in Photoshop, using posterization and brush strokes.
I actually had to reshoot my side of the panorama, because my shadows didn’t match properly and could not be photomerged. While reshooting, Firecracker climbed up on the table in the background and offered his services as a model.
“So this guy’s supposed to haunt…what, the bathroom?” And suddenly he laughed, because, gruesome as the story had been, there was something comic in the idea of a ghost haunting a shithouse…“You know people…guys would tell me they’d seen him. Not all of him, just his sneakers under the stall door.”
From the collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes.
John Tell is afraid to use the third floor bathroom of his recording studio. It’s because of the sneakers. At first, he thought they belonged to an employee. But they never leave. Day after day, month after month, those sneakers remain on the floor of the stall.
Truth is, it’s not the sneakers that terrify Tell. It’s the man they belong to. Because there was a drug dealer murdered in the bathroom, stabbed in the eyeball with a pencil. And only Tell knows that he hasn’t left, that he’s still in that third floor stall.
This image was the most fun to create so far. My buddy J Farell jumped at the chance to play the terrified record exec. I chose to shoot both pictures in the same stall, to give an unsettling uniformity to the piece.
This is one of the times that an image in my head comes to perfect fruition on the camera. Everything here is exactly as I pictured it a month ago when I was planning out the shoot.
I was tempted to sketch “All that you love will be carried away” on the wall of the stall, but felt that it took away from the image I was shooting. Next time, perhaps…
Some behind – the scenes photos from this image:
Next week we conclude with two of my favorite horror stories (and maybe a third if I’m feeling ambitious)…so try to stay alive until then.
Recently I shot an interview with Krewella for DJ Beatstreet. Here is the video and and the full audio from the interview.
Krewella on the Play Hard Tour
“A few weeks ago I had a chance to catch up with hard hitting trio known as Krewella as they stopped through Philly. We had chance to talk about the group’s future endeavors, love for whiskey, the progression of electronic music and an album in the works. Magic Rabbit Productions was in the building to film the whole event Below is the full video interview for your viewing pleasure and I also attached the full audio link if you want to repost, share, blog or anything else your little heart desires…”
The Gingerbread Girl and I Know What You Need
This week is about fighting back. It’s about digging in your heels and gritting your teeth, dealing with the pain and the horror and coming out stronger. It’s about who you are on the other side, in the aftermath of conflict. How it has changed you, toughened your skin and hardened your gaze.
This week is also a look into King’s work with women. He walks an interesting line when writing female characters; they tend to be domestic and fit into traditional archetypes but are tough – as – nails and carry a powerful inner strength. Often they arise from devastating circumstances by finding resolve that they never knew they had.
These are two of those women, Emily and Elizabeth.
The Gingerbread Girl
She could outrun him. Something in his gait said he would be fast for a little while and then flag, no matter how strongly his insanity and his fear of exposure pricked him on. She thought: “It’s as if I was in training for this all along.”
From the collection Just After Sunset.
After the death of her child, Emily’s life starts to fall apart. Her marriage disintegrates and, alone in her own world, she begins to run to soothe her pain. She soon learns of Pickering, a nasty man who is despised by the locals.
After accidentally finding one of his dead victims, Emily is kidnapped by Pickering. He ties her to a chair in his kitchen, intending to rape and murder her. During a chance moment alone, Emily frees herself from the chair. As she tries to escape, Pickering returns. Emily’s realizes her only option is to do what she’s been doing for months. She has to run.
There’s a whole genre of horror that is not supernatural boogymen, ghosts and haunted houses, but incredible tales of adversity. That’s what The Gingerbread girl is; a terrifying foray into a world where horror is the monsters around you.
This image was shot in Ocean City, MD on a rare warm day in October. Although I had originally intended to shoot from in front of the model, I prefer this view; from the side and above. The empty expanse of beach and ocean serve as a nice compliment to the solitary girl sitting alone.
I Know What You Need
I don’t know how he can do those things. I doubt if even he knows for sure. He might not mean to do you any harm, but he already is. He’s made you love him by knowing every secret thing that you want and need, and that’s not love at all.
From the collection Night Shift.
His name was Edward Jackson Hamner Jr. He’s a forgettable face; the kind of guy who blends in with a crowd. He’s socially awkward, introverted and a little strange.
And he knows Elizabeth better than anyone else in the world.
After her fiancee is killed by a speeding motorist, Ed Hamner is there to comfort Liz. He listens to her, he helps her cope and he watches as she slowly falls in love with him. Why wouldn’t she? He’s the perfect guy; almost too perfect.
As their relationship progresses, Liz begins to realize that Ed Hamner might be more than he appears. Wherever he goes, unexpected successes and tragedy follow. And anything he wants, he gets. Even Liz herself – whether she likes it or not.
Voodoo and it’s mythic rites are fairly uncommon topics for horror writing these days. Stories like this harken back to a time when we believed anything was possible if it came out of the darkness of a third world country. King does an excellent job modernizing it and making it believable and terrifying.
I shot this image at the southern pier on Ocean City’s boardwalk, just at sunset. The car is a die cast Audi R8 instead of a Fiat convertible. There’s some warm/cool split toning on this picture, which I always love against the ocean and sky.
Next week, we turn to supernatural horror and the things that lurk just out of your vision. Watch out behind you.
Gray Matter and The Sun Dog
I love fall because I love Halloween. Everything about this season makes me smile; cool nights, pumpkin beer and a good horror story.
I decided this year I would contribute to the terror of the season with a photo project: a series of horrific images taken from Stephen King’s short stories. Over the next four weeks, I’ll be recreating moments from these tales in photographic form. Today we start with two older stories: one is a scene of quiet domestic horror, the other is a literal snapshot of hell.
“Something gray” is all the kid can tell Henry. “Didn’t look like a hand at all. Just a gray lump.”
From the collection Night Shift
One cold winter day, Timmy Grenadine walks into Henry’s Nite Owl, too frightened to go home. He describes a scene of terror to the men there; of the old, fermented beer and his father Ritchie’s literal decay. More than a story of the domestic effects of alcohol, this is a tale of what happens on the edges of reality to those who don’t take heed of the expiration date.
This is the first piece in the series I shot. The hand is mine. I overlaid images of peeling paint and cracked stone to give the impression of skin flaking and rotting away. In Stephen King’s story, the negative effects are the result of a bad case of Schlitz beer. I used Genny Cream as well, a generous contribution from my friend Andrew Feierabend.
The Sun Dog
God knew how the dog had gotten into that Polaroid world in the first place, but when its picture was taken, it could see out and it wanted to get out…
From the collection Four Past Midnight
Kevin’s birthday present this year is something different: a polaroid Sun 600 camera. But this is no ordinary camera; the only photographs it produces are of a vicious black dog. Maybe the dog is trapped inside the camera, or maybe the camera is trapped inside our world and looking into another. But what Kevin knows for certain is the dog is getting closer. And closer…
I love mixing destiny with horror. I love the idea that there is something behind you, following you, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. It’s analogous with our real deaths; we are all going to die, there’s nothing we can do about it and it keeps getting closer.
This is a modernization of the story, call it the T3 Dog if you want. The bloody paw print is made from the mold of a real – life Grey Wolf paw. The “dog” on the LCD is actually a sloth bear, heavily modified in Photoshop.
I started with a more traditional processing of the image, but was drawn to the look of a poorly processed polaroid instead, something closer to what the Sun 600 would actually produce. Light leaks were created in Lighroom using gradients of varying exposure levels.
I’ll see you next week for more horror. Remember, beware of stray dogs. They may bite…
I swear at the software programs I use all the time. I belittle them, chastise them and generally try to get them to behave exactly the way I want. And I’m not the only one who does this.
One of my good friends has affectionately nicknamed FCP “Final Slut Hoe” and “Spinal Cut Pro” on different occasions. Another has taken to slamming her mouse repeatedly on her desk when an application stops responding. Another would just put his head down on his desk when he heard his drives start to spin up, because he know the application would stop responding for a while.
So why do artists experience such program rage when dealing with their software? Specifically software that allows them to do what they supposedly love? To understand the answer, you have to understand how an artist thinks.
Designed to be Ignored
All software designed for production, be it video editing, writing or spreadsheeting, should (at its most basic level) have a singular function: to act as a conduit between the creator and their product. A novelist, for example, uses Word to get their sentences out of their brains, onto a page and into manuscript format. A video editor is the same way; our software is designed to get our ideas from recorded clips into finished product.
The best software does this so well you almost forget it’s there. It allows you to move at the speed of your thoughts and throw your ideas and inspirations onto the screen without any blockage or pausing. As soon as you have to stop and focus on the program instead of the art, the program stops doing its job.
Think Like Your Software
Often, it’s a matter of putting aside the way you think your workflow should be handled, and taking the time to understand how the program “thinks”. I’ve been going through this process with FCPX (and I got a lot of pleasure out of creating the pic for this post). It can be a rough transition, refining your workflow to make it mesh with an application’s. And sometimes the two never meet and you simply can’t use the application effectively.
I’m naturally curious. For me, it’s a frustrating challenge to learn these new processes. I think that it makes me a better artist, because I can work in different ways and I’m not confined to one workflow. I like the idea of choosing a workflow based on the project, rather than trying to shoehorn every single client into the same process.
But along the way, I might swear at my applications. It’s all part of the learning curve.