Scary Movie: Kids special
While for most of us, horror means the walking dead, haunted houses or exorcists, for Joshua Hoffine, it is just another day at the office. The American horror photographer has been creating ripples (and screams) with his eerie frames. In an email interview with Ruchika Kher, he reveals more about his latest, critically acclaimed collection of photographs on childhood fears in which he has actually featured his daughters! Excerpts
How and when did the concept of horror photography start interesting you?
I started making horror photographs in 2003. They evolved from an interest in Jungian psychology and the iconography of fairy tales. I would read fairy tales to my daughters at night, and wanted to create a series of photographs based on fairy tale imagery. While working on this project I realised that many classic fairy tales archetypes such as the witch, the ogre, the monstrous wolf; also existed in modern horror films. This change of perspective — that horror films are like modern fairy tales, caused my work to move in a new direction. I decided to utilise these archetypes to create photographs that would tap into universal fears via the personal unconscious. I wanted to find monsters and memories that frightened you as a child, drag them out into the light of day, and take pictures of them.
What are the challenges you face while executing a horror shoot?
The failure of a special effect and rough shooting conditions — it’s usually very hot or cold because I shoot in mid-winter or mid-summer, when my work schedule slows down the most.
You’ve mentioned on your website that you are interested in the psychology of fear. What fascinates you about it?
Horror engages me. Creating these photographs allow me to see my own fears in an abstract, manageable way. I think now that confronting our fears is the first step towards transcending them.
You feature your daughters for your shoots. How forthcoming are they? Is it difficult to make them understand your subjects?
I have four daughters. I featured two in particular for my series about childhood fears. They loved doing it and were never scared. They had fun knowing that they were part of a scary picture. They were always aware of the artifice of it all, and would get excited about the idea of scaring the audience. The darker metaphors involved, the fine-art ambition of the project, went beyond their ability to grasp at that age.
Other family members have also participated in shoots. For instance, my grandmother is hiding behind the sheet in my clown photograph, while some relatives have also played the roles of monsters. For them, it was like a big game of dress-up.
Any plans of showcasing your works in India?
If a gallery or museum in India wanted to showcase my work I would say ‘yes’.
Do you believe in ghosts? What is your biggest fear?
I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural. I worry about mass murderers and serial killers, I worry about unexpected disease or natural calamity, I fear nuclear war, and I have an irrational fear of sharks. I believe I saw the movie Jaws at a very young age.
Your future plans?
I am planning another large-scale horror photo series for this autumn, titled The Grand Guignol. I am also finishing my short film, Black Lullaby. I hope to finalise a book of my photographs for publication, and then make a horror movie based on the same ideas and themes used in the photographs.