The astute Vault dwellers out there may have noticed the spiffy new header adorning the top of the site these days, in place of the classic E.C. title card I had been rocking for the past three years. Well, the amazingly talented individual responsible for it is one Amanda Norman, one of the UK's most gifted horror photographers. The banner was kindly sent to me by Amanda, along with the answers for the following Visceral Visionaries interview.
I invite you to read on, and discover the haunting work of Amanda Norman in the process...
You've talked in the past about being inspired by Universal and Hammer horror. How so, and which films in particular stand out?
Universal Horror was my first introduction to horror. I was fascinated with these films due to the monsters and creepy imagery of old crumbling castles, lightning and fog-filled graveyards. I never found these films scary, but it's only now in my adult years that I appreciate how the directors of these films made use of light to cast long eerie shadows and to highlight spooky things. The Frankenstein and Werewolf movies particularly stand out as these monsters did make me nervous.
The posters to advertise these films are my true inspiration. They had such wonderful Gothic imagery and close-ups of the monsters' faces. These posters definitely inspire my dark portraits, and I've created my own 'B-Movie' style posters in tribute to them
To me, Hammer Horror was the adult version of Universal Horror, and as an impressionable teenager, I loved these movies, my favorite being the Karnstein trilogy : The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, Twins of Evil. The graveyard scenes in all Hammer Horror movies inspire my graveyard photography.
Tell me more about this visual influence.
Back then, CGI was unheard of and wasn't needed to create an element of fear. I want my photography to have an element of fear for the viewer without using special effects. I set the scene for the viewer to conjure up thoughts of their own.
None of the models for my 'Dark Portraits' wear make-up. It's their face and the effect of lighting that produces the end result. More recently, in my color dark portraits, I've been playing with texture and color to create something a little different.
How did you first get into photography as a medium?
As a young child, my world was torn apart due to my mother marrying an abusive drunk who would beat her and torment me and my younger sisters. This resulted in us having to move away from family and friends and starting afresh. I loved the place where I grew up. I always visited the old graveyard and church that stood overlooking a bay, and I remember how peaceful and quiet it was there. I always read the gravestones and wondered what those people might have been like. One headstone sticks in my mind; it was of a young couple that died together in a motorbike accident and a photo of them is on the headstone. I re-visited the graveyard years later to capture my memories with a camera.
What came first, the portraits or the graveyard photography?
The graveyard photography came first and the dark portraits followed years later.
In your portraits, you talk about capturing the soul of your subject. Explain.
This question makes me giggle, as I like it!
When a person poses for me, I simply get them to relax and have fun in pulling faces and trying to get them to look evil. It's not that easy, to be honest, hence why I have to bring an element of fun into it. The result of the finished portrait always astounds me, because 8 out of 10 times, they themselves look like a particular monster, for example a vampire, zombie, etc. I don't ask the model to pose like a particular monster, and therefore I like to think that it's their soul that I've captured. It's not really, but it's just a bit of fun.
Would it be asking you to give away too much of your secrets if I asked the process by which you transform your subjects?
Kind of, yes! As I've already stated, it takes time, trust and lighting for me to show you my subjects soul.
What kind of imagery attracts you?
I don't like blood and gore, and I don't like images that reveal the story straight off. I like images that hide a story and show fear to the rest of us. It is then up to us to think about what is going on, and I've got one hell of an imagination.
Some of the best images I've seen are on horror movie posters, and the best one has to be of the priest standing under the light for the Exorcist movie. That's one scary film if you consider that it was based on a true story.
Describe the difference in your approach when you're doing something like graveyard photography, as opposed to portraiture.
I rely a lot on the weather here in the UK. If it's raining or too bright, I can't take the camera out. This is one of the reasons why I started taking 'Dark Portraits', because I couldn't get out and my creative juices were flowing.
When I'm out and about in the graveyard, I'm looking for old graves or statues of angels that look menacing. My goal is to invoke a sense of fear, and if the image isn't scary, then hopefully it will allow the viewer to think about the scene, how old the grave is, who's buried there and so on. I want my graveyard photography to be full of atmosphere and emotion, which isn't easy to portray.
Who inspires you? Anyone in particular out of artists working today?
There is one photographer who inspires my work, and that is Simon Marsden. His photography is dark and beautiful and I think that he's got the best job in the world. He visits all the old country houses and castles in the UK and takes photos. He also likes to tell tales of ghosts as well.
For all the photography geeks out there, tell us a little about the specific stuff you use.
Believe it or not, I'm lucky if I make $10 in one week from my photography, and therefore I don't have any specific equipment. I have an entry level DSL camera (Nikon D40) and a Canon Powershot G9.
How has the response been to your work?
Only the other day, I was telling a work colleague about my graveyard photography, and he looked at me as though I was weird, and said that it's morbid. Quite a lot of people do think that I'm strange, but I can't see what is so wrong about it. Perhaps they have a fear of death? I've only received small pockets of feedback, which has been in my favor. Unfortunately, I'm not well-known as a horror/Gothic photographer, and therefore not a lot of people see my work. In November 2009, I started work on my Zazzle store so that I could sell my photography on merchandise such as business cards, greeting cards and prints. This is slowly picking up thanks to Twitter.
What can we expect from you on the horizon?
In my fantasy dream world, I would be telling you what horror conventions I'm appearing at as I would love to take dark portraits and sell my photography. I would also love to tell you that I'm working on a joint collaboration with some of my favorite people, one of these being Drew Daywalt. Check out Daywalt Fear Factory on YouTube to see his amazing work that will provoke fear.
But back to reality. I've never attended a horror convention, and don't even have a car to travel. As for collaborating with Drew, that is merely a fantasy. I need to work more on self-promotion, as I'm not well-known for my work and people don't know about me yet.
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On that note, Vault dwellers, I say we do something to remedy that situation, don't you agree? To find out more about Amanda Norman, her Dark Portraits and graveyard photography, visit AmandaNorman.com.
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