Joshua Hoffine : House of Horror

Joshua Hoffine is one of the most recognized photographers in the genre of horror photography. His work has been featured in the Horror publications Rue Morgue, Fangoria, Horror Hound, Scream UK, Virus, and Famous Monsters of Filmland

U.S.A. – 

The most pursued genres of photography may be weddings, wildlife, fashion et al, but American photographer Joshua Hoffine‘s horror photography tingles more nerves than one. Through his macabre photographs of staged nightmares of people in general, Joshua prods our innermost fears.
He opens up to Emaho Magazine on how horror engages him, among other things.

 

Emaho : Given that it isn’t a much-treaded terrain, what drove you towards this unique niche in photography? You’ve been putting people’s worst fears into images that haunt them for a really long time. Would you say that there is an element of sadism in your work?

My Horror photography grew out of an interest in Jungian psychology and fairy tales.  I was reading 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 came to realize that many of the classic fairy tales archetypes – like 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.  And yes, I do agree there is an element of sadism in my work.  After all, as a Horror photographer, my role is to show you what you don’t want to see!

 

 

Emaho : Is there some part of  human psychology that you want to explore by putting people on the edge, bringing the mechanics of fear into play?

I try to create photographs that tap into universal fears via the personal unconscious.  I try to find the monsters that we share in common.

 

Emaho : Fear was an intense emotion when we were children. But your photographs remind us of the long-forgotten fears. Why do you feel this need to re-invoke that fear? Do you want the on lookers to feel… say, insecure?

I want to find the monsters and memories that frightened you as a child – the same monsters and memories that frightened me as a child – drag them out into the light of day, and take pictures of them.  Horror engages me.  Creating these photographs allow us to see our fears in an abstract, manageable way.  Confronting our fears is the first step towards transcending them.

I do want you to feel insecure.  I want you, for a moment, to acknowledge your state of existence, to feel its vulnerability, to feel its fleeting nature, and to recognize its inevitable end.  I want you to rest there and not blink.

 

Bed

 

Emaho : Your work gives people the creeps on social networking sites (ref. reddit) with over 1500 comments – each of them dreading to get any sleep that night! Even the YouTube Harlem Shake video of zombie artists from your production unit has over 6000 hits. Do you root for such responses and does social media play a catalyst?

Absolutely. My photographs seek to elicit an emotional response from the viewer – some people cringe, many laugh. But I’m always happy to see people physically react to my work.

I am very interactive with my fans online.  I have many followers on my blog and newsletter. Facebook has become the main way in which I interact with fans and reach out to new people.  The great thing about social media is that fans share my work and recruit new fans.

 

Candy

 

Emaho : Your photographs look like an impeccable screen shot of a horror movie with high production value. Do you conceptualize the scene and then mull over its execution or do you keep your limitations of production in mind and bring the scene to life accordingly?

Both.  I start with a concept, and then work out the execution.   But I have to consider my resources.  Sometimes I have to adjust things as I go along.

 

Emaho : At first glance, people assume your photographs are edited. How do you see your work in this age where softwares can create similar photographs, thus saving on elaborate production costs?  You have used photoshop in your recent work ‘Last Stand’, among others, to patch separately taken images. Should we read it as you giving in to your own ways of creating practical effects?

Making the photographs seem as believable as possible has always been my goal.  The more convincing the image, the more powerful its effect on the viewer.  Acting everything out live in front of the camera, on a set, with actors and practical effects, gives me the visual authenticity I desire.  But at times, there are things I want to see in my photographs which either cannot be achieved safely in the company of children, or exceeds my budget.  So I have learned how to shoot certain elements separately, on the same set, under the same lighting conditions, and then graft them on to the main image.  This way I am able to preserve my original vision without giving up the visual integrity of the image.  But personally I love handling the elements of my photographs in the real world and never incorporate digitally created imagery.

 

 

Emaho : Your work blurs the line between fairy tale stories such as Hansel and Gretel and horror. Since you work so closely with the concept, do you believe the devils and witches in fables initiate the development of this fear among children?

As children we are born hardwired with certain fears, like fear of the dark (where we cannot see potential dangers), the fear of being eaten, or the fear of losing our parents.  We are not taught these fears, we are born with them.  Fairy tales, like Horror movies, help us to engage and grapple with these fears in ‘safe’ ways.

 

Emaho : On careful observation, your work also seems to have references to literary characters or scenes. Can you cite some examples where you’ve been influenced by something in particular?

My photograph CANDY is definitely based on Hansel & Gretel, and WOLF is directly related to Little Red Riding Hood.

 

 

Emaho : The photograph that your children named “The Corpse Bride”, as you mention in the blog, is in a way more depressing than scary. Seeing a corpse in a coffin wearing a wedding gown and a ring – you seem to enjoy this a lot, don’t you?!

I’m definitely interested in the line that separates Horror from Tragedy.  ‘The Corpse Bride’ image is definitely more sad than scary.  I also tried to play on a sense of tragedy with my most recent image ‘Last Stand’, which features a family being overwhelmed by a horde of zombies.  The look on the little girl’s face becomes heartbreaking for many viewers when they realize that there is no escape and that the family, children included, is doomed.

 

 

Emaho : At first glance, people assume your photographs are edited. How do you see your work in this age where softwares can create similar photographs, thus saving on elaborate production costs?  You have used photoshop in your recent work ‘Last Stand’, among others, to patch separately taken images. Should we read it as you giving in to your own ways of creating practical effects?

Making the photographs seem as believable as possible has always been my goal.  The more convincing the image, the more powerful its effect on the viewer.  Acting everything out live in front of the camera, on a set, with actors and practical effects, gives me the visual authenticity I desire.  But at times, there are things I want to see in my photographs which either cannot be achieved safely in the company of children, or exceeds my budget.  So I have learned how to shoot certain elements separately, on the same set, under the same lighting conditions, and then graft them on to the main image.  This way I am able to preserve my original vision without giving up the visual integrity of the image.  But personally I love handling the elements of my photographs in the real world and never incorporate digitally created imagery.

 

 

Emaho : Your work blurs the line between fairy tale stories such as Hansel and Gretel and horror. Since you work so closely with the concept, do you believe the devils and witches in fables initiate the development of this fear among children?

As children we are born hardwired with certain fears, like fear of the dark (where we cannot see potential dangers), the fear of being eaten, or the fear of losing our parents.  We are not taught these fears, we are born with them.  Fairy tales, like Horror movies, help us to engage and grapple with these fears in ‘safe’ ways.

 

 

Emaho : On careful observation, your work also seems to have references to literary characters or scenes. Can you cite some examples where you’ve been influenced by something in particular?

My photograph CANDY is definitely based on Hansel & Gretel, and WOLF is directly related to Little Red Riding Hood.

 

 

Emaho : The photograph that your children named “The Corpse Bride”, as you mention in the blog, is in a way more depressing than scary. Seeing a corpse in a coffin wearing a wedding gown and a ring – you seem to enjoy this a lot, don’t you?!

I’m definitely interested in the line that separates Horror from Tragedy.  ‘The Corpse Bride’ image is definitely more sad than scary.  I also tried to play on a sense of tragedy with my most recent image ‘Last Stand’, which features a family being overwhelmed by a horde of zombies.  The look on the little girl’s face becomes heartbreaking for many viewers when they realize that there is no escape and that the family, children included, is doomed.

 

 

Emaho : You say your children love being a part of your projects. Every human being grows up with a fear of some sort of an imaginary supernatural monster. Don’t you see anything odd about almost depriving them of this growing up aspect where we learn to conquer our fears as we grow up?

I don’t believe I deprived them of the experience.  I just took a unique approach to helping them go through it.

 

Emaho : Your fiendish photographs freeze horror for a lasting moment. I believe you do wedding photography also! That’s some versatility. How do you maintain sanity with such variant creative ideas in one mind? Also, why do you do wedding photography under a fake name?

I have supported my expensive art habit for many years by shooting weddings.  I enjoy the idea of shooting so much imagery so quickly, where things are neither set up nor are under my control.  I always felt shooting weddings helped me to stay sharp-witted as a photographer.  These days, though, my name is synonymous with Horror photography.  To help with internet searches, I started shooting weddings under fake names, so that brides wouldn’t be afraid to call me! (chuckles)

 

Emaho : You see a lot of horror movies and read an immense amount of horror stories. Which story and movie has inspired you the most? Given a chance, which horror scene would you like to capture someday?

I sometimes fantasize about doing a project based on the silent movie Nosferatu, the Dali-Bunuel film Un Chien Andalou, or Poe’s story The Tell-Tale Heart.

 

Art & Culture Interviewed by Raksha Bihani

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